As the Duquesne Men’s Soccer Team toed the pitch against third-ranked Pitt, it was clear that there was a lot of motivation and communication present, but as the game went on, both soon vanished, never to return.
The talking and quick rushes gave away to dropped shoulders, anger, disappointment and even embarrassment as players left the field with less bounce in their step, including one who walked the length of the field in lieu of jogging from midfield towards the Duquesne bench, trying to process what had transpired.
What occurred was a 7-0 season-opening defeat to Pitt Thursday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field in front of 1,310 fans.
“Anybody who’s an athlete at this level or has been around the game long enough, results like this are unacceptable,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “You saw a lot of guys who were a little bit shell-shocked by this experience.”
Pitt kept Duquesne goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben busy firing 16 shots, 13 of which were on goal, while the Dukes fired four shots, but none of those were on goal.
Now, Duquesne will try to turn the page when it hosts Robert Morris on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“It’s just an eye opener,” Duquesne senior captain Ryan Landry said. “We haven’t earned anything yet this year and we have RMU. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, we have to go out and actually play.”
A GOOD START UNDONE
For the first 15 minutes of the game, the stats sheet was fairly bare and in what Brooks may have considered one of the few positives, Duquesne may have been the better side in that time.
Duquesne strung rushes together and get inside the box twice before Pitt was able to catch up and stop the attack.
Maxi Hofper was able to get inside the inner box, but his shot attempt was blocked, as those in attendance held their collective breaths, looking for reason to cheer.
Brooks seemed pleased with the confidence his team played with in the match’s early phase and commended his team’s “bravery”.
Early in the 15th minute, Duquesne’s Tom Tzibari was assessed a yellow card by referee Sergio Gonzalez. Seven seconds later, Pitt got its first shot which led to a corner kick.
Pitt then controlled the ball in the attacking third with Bertin Jacquessen scoring a goal.
“The first 15 minutes were good, we were in the game and had two opportunities but didn’t take our chances,” Brooks said. “Pitt gets three opportunities in the next 15-20 minutes and they take their chances. That’s the difference. At this level if you want to achieve great things, you have to take your chances and we just didn’t. That’s the biggest takeaway, that you can’t spot a team like this goals.”
According to Brooks, the goal was when Duquesne realized it was in a game and started to back its levels down.
With the levels dropping, the goals began to multiply which further discouraged Duquesne.
“We stopped playing together as a team,” said Landry. “We weren’t shifting together, we weren’t making the runs out to press and then we just got broken down. Then there were those three goals and then heads were gone. I think we kind of got tired after we were pressing really high and then kind of sat in for a little bit and it’s hard to put into words, but we dropped as a team. Our standards kind of went away and then you look at the scoreboard.”
In terms of assessing credit to Pitt, Brooks understood that the other side was going to be good, but that ultimately it came down to what his Dukes were unable to do.
“It still comes down to us at the end of the day having the fight and having the ability to believe in ourselves to fight for 90 minutes,” he said.
DEFENSIVE LEVEL DROPS
During a preseason interview with Landry, he expressed that Duquesne’s young defense was tested often last season and growth on the back end was critical. He was encouraged that this piece was trending in the right direction, however that optimism was not displayed in Thursday night’s setback.
“We were stepping into the wrong places, we weren’t shifting, we weren’t following the man,” he said. “It was a lot of things we went over in practice over the last two weeks that we just didn’t want to do. It was emphasizing that we really have to do that or it’s going to be 7-0 on the board all the time.”
Taking a more tactical approach, Brooks acknowledged that Pitt had a definite advantage in possession and when that happens, it comes down to working hard on the defensive end.
Brooks has repeatedly implored his team to be the hardest working squad on the field and he openly admitted to being outworked in nearly every facet.
“What you saw was a young team humbled and wasn’t able to overcome that in the moment,” said Brooks. “This team has more that they can give, more in the tank. That’s our job as a staff to go back over the next few days and make sure they realize you have more that you can give. As long they trust themselves and work hard for each other, we’re going to be just fine.”