DURHAM, N.C. – Duke University sophomore Zach Mathers put in a rebound with 11 seconds to go in regulation to help the Blue Devils pick up a 1-1 tie with Rutgers to open the 2013 men’s soccer season. Duke closes out the annual John Rennie Nike Invitational with Northeastern Sunday afternoon.
Rutgers (0-0-1) opened the scoring in the 21st minute after a defensive miscue by Duke. Kene Eze picked up the loose ball and was able to beat Blue Devil goalkeeper Alex Long and give the Scarlet Knights the 1-0 advantage.
“You have to keep believing and luckily we kept believing down to the last 11 seconds,” said head coach John Kerr. “We played well in the second half and things just weren’t bouncing our way. In overtime I thought we were the better team by far. We hit the post and we had some near misses. I’m very proud of the players, they did great. And we’re a lot more dangerous than we were last year. We were just unfortunate tonight, but the signs are there that we can move forward with.”
The Blue Devils (0-0-1), after struggling to find a rhythm in the early going, started stringing passes together and creating scoring opportunities. Duke junior Sean Davis had the first good look, one-timing a shot from 20 yards out smothered by Rutgers goalie David Greczek.
Later in the half Luis Rendon had his shot skip wide right of the net after an outstanding individual effort on the left wing as the Blue Devils headed into the locker room down 1-0. Rutgers held the narrow 8-6 edge in shots in the opening half.
Duke dominated the action in the second half, but continued to just miss finding the back of the net. After being outshot 8-6 in the first half, Duke fired 17 shots to Rutgers’ three in the second 45. The Blue Devils even seemingly tied the score with just under 19 minutes to go, but the offside flag was up before Sebastien Ibeagha could head the ball home.
After continuing to knock on the door for 44 minutes, the Blue Devils’ persistence paid off as rookie Brody Huitema’s blocked shot bounced over to a wide-open Mathers who touched it in for the tying goal. The shots were the 16 and 17th of the half for the Blue Devils.
Overtime proved to mirror the second half with Duke as the more dangerous team. Rendon had the best look at goal of the game when a cross came to him on the left side of the box. The sophomore forward got a touch and fired it right off the near post to keep the game deadlocked.
The Scarlet Knights, with just three shots in the second half and overtime combined, earned a few dangerous corner kicks. However, Duke’s stalwart defense was able to preserve the tie.
Overall, Duke held a 27-11 advantage in shots and a 13-4 edge in corner kicks. Long finished with five saves, while Greczek had six in 110 minutes.
The Blue Devils host Northeastern in the John Rennie Nike Invitational finale Sunday, Sept. 1 at 2:30 p.m. Fans who have Duke football tickets and present them at the gate will get in free so make it a Duke Athletics weekend.