My apologies for the tardiness of this article but those of you who paid attention to the comments in Tuesday's Maryland Minute know that my travel mate Erin is visiting for a few days and I am a bit distracted. Now, on to business.
The Maryland men's soccer team got off to a solid start in trying to make one final run through the ACC Tournament and claim the program's twenty-second ACC Championship running through the Boston College Eagles by a final of 2-0 scoring both goals in the second half. "I thought the second half we came out and really took over the game on the attacking side. We were sharper with the ball. We made better runs and had them under constant pressure," Coach Sasho Cirovski said of what he expects to be a "very adruous" ACC Tournament.
Although the coach may have thought Maryland took over the game in the second half, the Terps had several opportunities in the first half and generally controlled the run of play. Maryland got things started early when Patrick Mullins launched the first of his ten shots just over a minute into the game. The BC defense deflected the shot wide but it led to a corner kick for the Terps. After playing a dangerous centering pass in the fifth minute Mikey Ambrose made a run in the seventh minute to open some space at the top of the box and launch a shot but Eagles' goalkeeper Alex Kapp came up with the relatively routine save.
"Defensively we were locked in and focused throughout," Cirovski said and that focus showed itself early on. Following a Maryland foul, Boston College found a way to attack the Terrapin goal in the tenth minute but the defense blocked the first and the second went wide. In fact, Maryland's defense was so locked in that goalkeeper Zack Steffen would record only one garden variety save for the night.
The Terps began to ramp up the pressure in the seventeenth minute after two Boston College fouls. The free kick on the second came from about twenty-five yards but Mullins pushed his header just wide. Ten minutes or so later, Mullins played a beautiful through ball for Sunny Jane who picked it up on the right side of the box and had a one on one situation with Kapp who had to come off his line to cut down the angle. Jane simply didn't get enough on his shot from about nine yards to take advantage of the situation and Kapp made the save. Kapp used that save to get into a good rhythm and made two outstanding saves later in the half the first coming on a Mullins header from about eight yards in the thirty sixth minute and the second coming off a blast by David Kabelik from even closer range about half a minute later. Cirovski described Maryland's play in the first half as, "okay but we were a little predictable. We played into their hands a little too much. We probably played one touch too many and allowed their backs to get into good spots." The result, a 0-0 halftime tie.
The Terps turned up the pressure a level or two to open the second half and it paid a relatively quick dividend. The goal came from a somewhat surprising source, Mikias Eticha. The junior from Falls Church froze Alex Kapp when he appeared to be making a pass. Instead, Eticha launched a left footed bomb from 25 yards that looped past a surprised Eagles keeper.
Maryland didn't rest on their one goal lead and continued to press forward against the Boston College defense. Two minutes after the first goal Schillo Tshuma made a strong run down the center and passed to Jane on the right but this time Kapp wasn't fooled and he picked up the save. Mullins launched a header off a Sunny Jane corner kick in the fifty-sixth minute that went just wide.
In the sixty-fifth minute, the Eagles finally countered the Terps pressure and managed their only corner kick if the night. It proved to be a dangerous play as the ball came off a Terrapin defender very near the shoulder that had the BC bench howling for a handball. The officials saw the play differently and the teams played on. Maryland went back on the attack and with 18:45 to play, Tsubasa Endoh took a cross from Michael Sauers, who had opened space on the left side,and blistered the ball into the back of the net from about ten yards. The second goal proved to be the "Endoh" the line for the Eagles as the Terps closed out the 2-0 victory to move on to the ACC Tournament semi-finals where they will face the fourth seeded Clemson Tigers who eliminated North Carolina by a 2-1 final. The game will be played Friday at 8 pm at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown.