The Maryland Terrapins traveled to Berkeley to face the Cal Bears on their home field Saturday for a chance to go to the College Cup in Philadelphia. I got to Cal's broadcast of the men's soccer quarter final a bit late and tuned into the game in about the fifth minute. The Terps had been whistled for three fouls but neither team had registered a shot. I need to note that the stream of the match was just that - a stream. No play by play or commentary, no clock, no score, no graphics of any kind. The stream came from a single camera positioned at midfield somewhat far from the action so some of my player identification may be a bit off. But hey! It was 99 cents. (Not really. It was free. I just had to give a shout out on Grammy weekend to Macklemore & Lewis.)
The Terps looked to be having the better of the run of play putting early pressure on the Bears' defense. The first shot came from Schillo Tshuma. He had a good look off a throw in from the upper right corner of the box but so did Cal's goalkeeper Alex Mangels who made a routine save.
The Bears began to gradually wrest control of the game flow and in the nineteenth minute the Terps got the first indication that the soccer gods might be in their side when, after a succession of quick one touch passes, Luis Fuentes ended up one on one with Terrapin keeper Zack Steffen who had come far off his line. With essentially a wide open net Fuentes' shot somehow found the far post. Cal's shot off the ensuing corner kick went well wide. The Bears continued their crisp play holding good possession and using the same crisp passing to find space in Maryland's defense. Cal made another strong attack from the left but fortune again favored the Terrapins as no one from Cal had made a strong run to the goal to take an otherwise well played cross.
Early in the twenty-seventh minute, Alex Shinsky replaced Michael Sauers for Maryland. The Terps seemed to pick up the pace over the next few minutes and just as I was noting that Shinsky seemed to give the Terps a bit of a lift, the Terps drew a foul just outside the right side of the box about parallel with the 6 yard line. Mikey Ambrose played the free kick and Shinsky headed the ball inside the near post and the Terps had a 1-0 lead after 32:56 of play.
Maryland quickly regained control of the ball on the restart and less than a minute later had a corner kick. Cal's failure to clear led to another foul this time deep in the left corner. This time Shinsky couldn't quite get around to finish and his shot in a dangerous situation sailed wide. Still, the goal and the shot seemed to settle the Terps and they played out the half with no further threats from the Bears and took their 1-0 margin into the break.
The Terps didn't need long in the second half to earn their first corner kick which came just fifty seconds into the half. Cal initially cleared the ball out of the box but it came directly back to Tsubasa Endoh who sent in another cross. Sauers had a good look at the ball but Mangels punched the ball high. Mikias Eticha had a chance on the ensuing corner but Cal's defense blocked his shot. Though Maryland would manage a few more shots this would be the Terps last real opportunity for nearly forty minutes.
On the other hand, Cal had multiple chances to even the score and take the lead. They got the equalizer on the first of those chances when Stefano Bonomo took a cross from the left side. Steffen made the initial save but couldn't control it. Bonomo took the rebound and put it in the net to tie the score at one with forty-one minutes to play. The goal clearly energized both the crowd, who had spent most of the game hooting disapproval at every foul called on the home team, and the Golden Bears who broke down the Terrapins' back line to create several more dangerous chances. None was more dangerous than in the sixtieth minute when crisp passing again caused Maryland's back line to break down a bit forcing Steffen to come far off his line again. Fortunately for the Terps keeper, a Terrapin defender, probably Suli Dainkeh circled behind Steffen and made an outstanding block to preserve the tie score.
Maryland got the go ahead and eventual game winning goal in the eighty-sixth minute when Mikey Sauers took a pass from Eticha and blasted a high shot from just outside the penalty area past a stunned Mangels. Cal pushed forward to try for the equalizer but the Terrapins defense held strong and Maryland escaped with a 2-1 win to return to the College Cup for a second consecutive year. Maryland's semi-final opponent will be a familiar one as the Terps will match up for a third time with the Virginia Cavaliers at PPL Park in Philadelphia on Friday.