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Virginia men’s soccer plays to a 0-0 draw against No. 2 Duke

The Cavaliers put in a strong defensive performance, but couldn’t break down the Blue Devils’ backline in the end

<p>The Cavaliers put forth a strong effort against one of the best teams in the nation Friday night.</p>

The Cavaliers put forth a strong effort against one of the best teams in the nation Friday night.

In the 93rd clash between two historic ACC programs, No. 21 Virginia men’s soccer and No. 2 Duke fought to a 0-0 stalemate Friday at Klöckner Stadium in Charlottesville. It was a matchup between the ACC Coastal Division’s finest, with the Blue Devils (8-0-3, 3-0-2 ACC) entering and leaving in first place in the division and sitting just one point above the second-place Cavaliers (7-4-1, 3-1-1 ACC).

Virginia lined up in its tried and true 3-5-2 formation to begin the proceedings, brandishing an identical starting 11 to the one used in the Cavaliers’ 1-0 defeat to Denver Tuesday. That result represented the first occasion in which Virginia had been shut out in a game since its season-opener Aug. 25 against Xavier, and the Cavaliers’ attack came out looking sluggish again Friday.

It was Duke who fashioned the first chance of the fixture, doing so from a set piece given away by junior defender Will Citron in the third minute. The free kick reached Duke freshman defender Kamran Acito in the middle of the box, but his effort was cleared off the line in a heartbeat by senior defender Andreas Ueland. 

Virginia picked things up in the next few minutes, with junior forwards Leo Afonso and Philip Horton combining to nearly put the Cavaliers ahead in the ninth minute. Afonso found himself on the left flank and worked himself space to cross a low ball in for Horton, who took his left-footed shot first time and flashed his attempt just wide of the left woodwork. 

Minutes later, graduate student defender Moritz Kappelsberger came inches away from opening the scoring. Following a corner in the 12th minute from sophomore defender Paul Wiese, Kappelsberger glanced a header goalwards and watched it drag centimeters wide of the net. 

The match drew quiet for the next several minutes until Duke put together a nice counter-attack that forced junior midfielder Axel Ahlander to draw a yellow card for a tactical foul. Thankfully for Virginia, the Blue Devils wasted the free kick, sending in a cross that no player could reach and leaving the game goalless. 

In the 28th minute, Horton left Duke sophomore midfielder Ruben Mesalles behind him and traveled towards goal. Mesalles could do nothing but bring Horton down before any more danger could build, and Afonso’s ensuing free kick traveled just a few feet over the crossbar. 

It was more scrappy play in the next several moments of the game, as neither side found much in the way of attack as the first half drew closer to its conclusion. Sophomore forward Michael Tsicoulias almost ended the drought for the Cavaliers with a rippling attempt from the left side of the box in the 39th minute, but Duke graduate student goalkeeper Eliot Hamill showed extraordinary reaction time to push the shot wide. 

Virginia nearly struck again from the ensuing corner, but Kappelsberger sent a point blank effort well over the bar. That signaled halftime, bringing a scoreless period to a close and leaving both teams starving for more after the break.

Things picked up right where they left off in the second half, with the Cavaliers in control of the possession. Afonso created the first chance of the period with a darting run down the right wing, but his move concluded with a disappointing attempt sent straight at Hamill. 

Yet again, the match entered an elongated segment without much attacking action. The Blue Devils earned two corners but couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities, and the Cavaliers struggled to get out of their own half during the same period. 

In the 63rd minute, Afonso received a cross and glanced a header towards goal in what was Virginia’s first chance in nearly 15 minutes. The shot never worried Hamill in the end, as the graduate student calmly watched the ball sail over the net. 

Horton was next to make himself known to the Duke defense, bursting forward on the left side before playing an incisive through ball for Afonso. The pass missed the junior’s outstretched foot by mere inches, and both forwards were left rueing a potential game-winning opportunity. 

As the game entered its final 15 minutes, the Cavaliers looked the better side. Sophomore midfielder Asparuh Slavov was fouled just outside of the 18-yard box to set up a dangerous set piece for Virginia in the 79th minute. Junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov assumed the duties, but his shot blistered into the Blue Devils’ wall.

Not much else came to fruition in the remainder of regulation, as the game stumbled to a goalless finish. The draw marked Virginia’s first such result of the season, coming in their 12th contest.

We are disappointed not to come away with a win tonight,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “We recognize that we played a quality opponent that is undefeated and ranked number two for a reason and I think we played them toe-to-toe tonight, and I would say we characterized more of the game.”

Most of the takeaways from this match will be positive for the Cavaliers. They controlled much of the pace of play, and it culminated in them producing more shots, shots on target and corners than their premier opposition. Virginia became just the third team to take points off Duke this campaign, and the shutout gives them three clean sheets in their last five games. They’ve conceded just two goals in that span. 

“It’s not just us, we work as a whole team,” Citron said. “When the ball gets around the box, we collapse around attackers, don’t give them any space and we shut them down.”

Citron and the Cavaliers will look to carry their defensive stylings into a matchup with reigning national champion No. 23 Clemson Saturday in Clemson, S.C. The game is set to kickoff at 7 p.m.