MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Duquesne men’s soccer team had eight corners kicks in the first half of its non-conference game against Robert Morris on Wednesday afternoon, but walked back to the locker room disappointed after being unable to score a goal.
Duquesne junior forward Jack Shearer recalled his team’s collective frustration. Despite those eight corner kicks, the team was held to six shots in the opening 45 minutes.
“The first half was definitely frustrating for us,” he said. “Coach Brooks came in and talked some sense into us and we came out with more passion and grit. I think we responded very well.”
Two second-half goals allowed Duquesne to win 2-0 in its 25th-ever meeting against Robert Morris, match a program-best with five consecutive wins and defeat the Colonials on the road for the first time since 2009.
“In the locker room we said we have to go for the game,” Duquesne sophomore midfielder Manel Busquets said. “We cannot get four wins and now tie the game. We went for it and that’s why I think we won the game.”
Duquesne is now 5-0-1 on the season, and has its highest win total since the 2016 season. This is the first time since 2008 that Duquesne has not been defeated in a six-game stretch.
Wednesday afternoon Duquesne was without senior midfielder/forward Owen Rossi and sophomore defender Eric Zech. As a result, freshman forward Carter Breen earned his first career start and sophomore defender Rob Dymond also got a nod for the first time this season.
This game also served as Duquesne’s first away from Rooney Field while also needing to transition from turf to all grass.
It was clear that in the first 10 minutes there was an adjustment period despite Duquesne amassing five corner kicks during that time.
Duquesne coach Chase Brooks has never been one to make excuses and certainly was not ready to start with this game.
“I think it’s lack of execution and a desire we lacked in the first 45 minutes,” said Brooks. “We didn’t come to win the game and I think you saw that. Robert Morris caused us a lot of problems in the first half and then our guys figured it out as we went along.”
What exactly did Duquesne figure out?
Simply put, it went back to Duquesne soccer.
“For ourselves it is playing to our strengths,” Brooks said. “When we do that, I’m convinced there’s not many teams that can handle what we do. It’s knowing who you are, playing within yourself and executing to the best of your ability.”
In the 53rd minute, Duquesne was on the attack with Busquets fast charging towards the net.
“I saw the left back coming to me with some speed and I thought I had to put the ball away from him,” said Busquets. “I started running and saw they couldn’t keep up with me.”
Busquets then connected with Shearer on a cross resulting in Duquesne’s first goal and a piggyback ride ensued as part of the celebration. It was a goal that RMU coach Bill Denniston admitted was “great” in the university-issued recap on this game.
Duquesne’s offense began to open up after the score.
While Duquesne has experienced its fair share of bumps and bruises, Busquets may be the most physical player on the roster. Wednesday was no different as Busquets took a hit in the second half that had him down for a couple of moments on the field.
Busquets was able to get back up and took a turnover down the length of the field, scoring in the 78th minute.
“He’s got great energy and fitness,” Shearer said. “If things aren’t going his way, he doesn’t keep up, he keeps pushing forward. He stays positive and has done that this year for us.”
As Busquets celebrated, he thought not only about what the goal meant on a personal level but also that it had seemingly put the game out of reach.
Though Duquesne earned the win, there is still plenty of work to be done, primarily playing a complete 90-minute game.
Shearer said of this goal that the team has played well and shown flashes but has yet to check off this objective, though the team has paced itself into focusing only on the task ahead.
Duquesne will take the victory as momentum heading into Saturday when Atlantic 10 play starts with a road contest against Saint Joseph’s.
As Duquesne looks to right the wrong that was conference play last season, Busquets was quick to explain what he feels has changed with this team and why this momentum can continue.
“This team takes the challenge more seriously,” he said. “I think we have more winning players than last year. It’s a different program and we are looking to try getting to the playoffs and then trying to win the tournament.”
Here are some photos from Wednesday’s contest.