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Mullins PK leads Terps to 2-1 win over Tulsa

Sure, Patrick Mullins scored and the Terps notched their first Tuesday night win and put together back to back wins for the first time in 2013 but in truth, it's all about the chicken.

I try to make Tuesday night men's soccer my night for Peruvian Chicken. Last week I strayed down to Senor Chicken. The result: a disappointing tie with a solid but beatable Old Dominion squad. Tonight I stayed close to home, tossed a coin and went to choose between EPR (El Pollo Rico) and  EPKR (El Pollo Kiki Riki) with the latter winning the toss. The result: a 2-1 win over a similar Tulsa Golden Hurricane squad. No more Senor Chicken for me, Sasho.

The Terps started applying pressure early and had a corner kick less than two minutes into the game. Sunny Jane's centering pass was high and a bit too deep and was easily handled by Tulsa's keeper. After some extended play in the midfield, Tulsa mounted a counter and had a good look at the goal but Omar Mata's shot sailed high. Next it was the Terps turn and after opening some space on a cross from Jereme Raley, Tsubasa Endoh launched a shot that also sailed high. Maryland earned their second and third corners in the 12th minute. Jane saw his first entry headed out by the Hurricane defense. Schillo Tshuma gathered the second ball for a shot at the near post that Tulsa keeper Jake McGuire saved easily.

The Terrapins continued to pressure and Michael Sauers worked through a double team at the top of the box to get off a shot from about 8 yards that the defense deflected wide. On the ensuing corner, Sauers ripped another shot but McGuire again came up with the save. The Terps finally broke through in the twenty-fourth minute. Patrick Mullins gathered in Zack Steffen's goal kick following a wide Tulsa shot and made a strong run down the left side. His cross into the box toward Sunny Jane deflected off a Tulsa defender into the net and the Terps had a 1-0 lead. Maryland had two good chances to extend their lead with Mullins near bicycle kick from 16 yards sailing high as did Dan Metzger's shot from 24 yards straight on.

Most people who keep score in a baseball game put an asterisk on their scorecard when a player makes an outstanding defensive play. Well, my game notes have a big old asterisk next to Zack Steffen's save in the thirty-eighth minute. Tulsa forward Bryce Follenbee made a long run on a through ball and got well behind Maryland's defense. Steffen came off his line and made a brilliant sprawling save on a shot from about 15 yards to preserve the Terrapins' lead. The Terps had one last opportunity to open some breathing room. With under a minute to play in the half, Maryland senior forward Jake Pace got behind Tulsa's defense and appeared to have a one on one situation with McGuire. But a Hurricane defender caught up with Pace and bothered him just enough to drive his shot wide. "It was unfortunate that we weren't up a few more because we certainly left a lot of, a lot that's multiple chances on the table again and that part has me feeling a little hollow," Coach Cirovski said after the game.

The Terps did extend the lead in the fifty-fourth minute as their aggressive play paid off when Michael Sauers got taken down in the box setting up a penalty kick opportunity. Mullins stepped to the line for Maryland and thinking, as he put it, "Put it in the net. Strike it hard and make the goalie have to make a save," did just that with a drive into the upper right corner. The goal was Mullins' thirty-third of his career placing him alone in seventh place on the Terrapins' all-time list. It was also his third on PKs this season.

Maryland continued to control the play and create chances with the most dangerous coming just a minute after Mullins' goal when Shuma played a near perfect cross from the right to Sunny Jane but the senior pushed his shot wide. Tulsa made another deep run off the goal kick but once again, Steffen came up with a big one on one save to preserve the two goal lead. A Tulsa free kick from the right side in the sixty-fourth minute that trickled through several players' legs found its way just inside the far post.

The Hurricanes' score did more than simply halve the Terrapins' lead. It swung the momentum to Tulsa and ended Maryland's control of the game. However, the team learned from the difficult collapse against VCU and managed what Cirovski called, "a grind it out, gutty effort. That's all that was at the end. They were sending a lot of numbers forward. They were putting four and five guys forward. They were playing very direct. They were fighting for second balls just like good teams do desperately. They created a few hairy moments for us but for the most part we minimized their threat. And we found a way to win."

The win marked the first on Tuesday night for the Terps and was also the first time they've won back to back games this season. They will look to make it three straight when they Boston College comes to Ludwig field for a 7:30 pm match up Friday, October 4.

(Apologies for the photo. It looked a lot better on my phone.)