No. 6 men’s soccer set to play No. 2 Duke in a battle of the heavyweights

The Cavaliers head to Durham riding a three-match shutout streak

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Virginia faces one of its toughest tests of the season Friday.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

With three wins in three games in 2019, the No. 6 Virginia men’s soccer team will put its undefeated record on the line Friday as the Cavaliers travel to play No. 2 Duke in a showdown between a pair of top-10 teams. 

Virginia (3-0-0, 0-0-0 ACC) hopes to return to its winning ways against Duke (4-0-0, 0-0-0 ACC), having fallen to the Blue Devils the last two times the storied ACC programs faced each other. 

The last time Virginia men’s soccer defeated Duke in Durham, N.C., was in 2011, and the Cavaliers defeated the Blue Devils 1-0 thanks to an early goal by then-sophomore midfielder Brian Span — who now is entering his second year with Swedish club Vasteras FK.

When the then-No. 23 Blue Devils came to Charlottesville to face the then-No. 10 Cavaliers in 2018, the visiting team had lost its three previous ACC matches. Nevertheless, Duke pulled off the upset, winning 2-0 and ending the Cavaliers’ five-match winning streak thanks to goals by then-sophomore defender Matthias Frick and then-junior midfielder Daniele Proch. 

Duke returns seven of its 11 starters from 2018, when the Blue Devils finished the season ranked No. 11, including Frick, Proch and two-time All-ACC selection junior goalkeeper Will Pulisic — cousin of American soccer superstar Christian Pulisic. 

However, the most notable player in a Duke uniform is one who represented Virginia just a year ago. Graduate transfer and defender Sergi Nus — a two-time All-ACC selection for the Cavaliers who suffered a season-ending injury in 2018 — anchored a Virginia back-line that posted 16 shutouts during the two seasons Nus started. Nus has started in all of Duke’s matches this season and will be a formidable opponent for an high-powered Virginia offense that has scored five goals in the past three games. 

For Virginia to defeat Duke for the first time since 2016, it will need a combination of outstanding goalkeeping by junior Colin Shutler as well as efficient scoring from a formidable Virginia attack. 

Shutler has posted a shutout in each of Virginia’s matches this season and must be at the top of his game to quell a Duke offense led once again by Proch, who already has five goals to his name this season. 

On the other side of the ball, the three-headed Virginia attack — sophomore Daryl Dike, junior Irakoze Donasiyano and junior Nathaniel Crofts — must deliver goals and continuously challenge Pulisic and the talented Duke back-line. 

In a highly anticipated matchup with important national and conference implications, a victory for Duke or Virginia would bring either team one step closer to another title.  

Virginia will travel to Duke today with the game kicking off at 6 p.m. from Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C. The match can also be viewed live on ESPNU. 

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