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It’s time: Irish head into must-win match against undefeated Duke

The Fighting Irish men’s soccer team suffered a 2-0 loss to No. 11 Louisville at home this past Saturday, a defeat in which the Irish took three times more shots and four times more corners than the Cardinals. The Irish maintained the majority of possession and controlled much of the flow of the match too. But, the Irish failed to convert on their many prime scoring chances, a problem which has plagued them all season.

The Irish hope to get back on track in their next match against the Duke Blue Devils, but the battle will be an uphill one. Duke is currently ranked third in the country, with a record of 8-0-3. The Blue Devils have several results which demonstrate their dominance this season, including a 2-1 win over Louisville on the road and a 3-2 win against No. 10 Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. They tied Virginia in a 0-0 deadlock away from home as well. 

The Blue Devils and the Irish have shared only one common win thus far this season, over the Boston College Eagles. Both teams defeated the struggling Eagles at home, with Duke prevailing 1-0 and the Irish claiming victory with a score of 2-1.

The primary concern of the Irish going into Saturday night’s matchup will be the struggling offense. Despite a talented roster, and one of the strongest freshman classes nationwide, the departures of key players from last year’s side have shown when the Irish attack in the final third of the pitch. Shots have not resulted in goals for the team, either through a lack of clinical execution or poor luck. Notre Dame currently ranks towards the bottom of the ACC in key offensive metrics and have gone scoreless in their last two matches.

This is not to say the Fighting Irish have no business taking the field with the undefeated Blue Devils. The Irish have seen positive trends in their last two losses, and categorically controlled both matches against the Hoosiers and Cardinals. Maintaining possession, formation, composure and building up attacks have not been areas of concern for this squad. It was the Irish team’s proficiency in those fields that brought them key conference wins against Virginia and Boston College. Duke will represent the greatest remaining challenge for this team, but that is not to say the Irish have no chance. If the pieces fall in the right way for Notre Dame, they can be competitive with any side in the country. 

With only five matches remaining, two of which are out of conference match-ups, it appears more likely the Irish will not nab a bid into the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament through an at-large selection. The only path for the Irish to return to the bracket now, it would seem, would be to claim the ACC conference championship. Winning that title will require a great shift of momentum for this team and an end to the results that continue to not go Notre Dame’s way. A statement win against a strong team like the Blue Devils could be the perfect catalyst. Head coach Chad Riley and his players certainly hope they can make that sentiment a reality.

The Irish will take the field against Duke on Friday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. EDT at a neutral site in Durham, NC. The game will be streamed on the ACC Network.

Contact Adam Akan at aakan@nd.edu

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