The VCU Rams came to College Park as likely the best 4-6-1 team the Terrapins could conceivably face. Four of the Rams' six losses have come to teams ranked in Soccer America's Top 25 as have two of their wins. One of those wins came over Georgetown who defeated the Terps 1-0 just last week. Without head coach Sasho Cirovski who had received a one game suspension from the Big Ten earlier in the day and in desperate need of a win, Maryland got what they needed taking down the Rams 1-0 Wednesday night.
The Terps would have to find a different way to create energy. Not only were they without Cirovski, they played in front of an announced crowd of 922 - one of the smallest crowds of the year.
Surprisingly, neither team opened the game with great urgency but the key sequence occurred as the clock ran between the 16th and 17th minutes. It began when VCU's Mario Herrera Meraz played a ball back to goalkeeper Cyrus Garrett about 12 yards out on the left side of the box.
Alex Shinsky made a mad run from the right and a brilliant tackle from behind Garrett. The ball squirted toward the corner of the six yard box and Shinsky bounced quickly to his feet getting behind Garrett with the prospect of an open net behind them. The keeper bounced up and made a quality open field tackle (for football if not futbol) on the Terrapins' midfielder just as he went to take the shot which would hit the near post. However, the official stepped in and whistled Garrett for a red card.
Garrett was gone for the game replaced by Pierre Gardan in goal. Meraz Herrera went to the bench to serve the penalty. Mael Corboz made his third penalty kick of the season. The PA played Ole Ole. Maryland had a one goal and a one player advantage for the game's final 74 minutes.
However, over the closing 29 minutes of the first half, while the Terps managed one or two quality opportunities - one form Corboz and one form Mikey Ambrose - they didn't possess the ball enough in the VCU half to maximize their player advantage. They still didn't pass the ball quickly and crisply often dribbling three and four times before making a pass. For much of this time they continued to display the symptoms of toomanytouchesitis that has dogged them most of the season.
Second half - Better possessions still but...
Maryland did a better job possessing the ball to open the second half. They maintained the ball in VCU's half for most of the first 25 minutes while developing a few dangerous chances. They also kept the ball out of danger on the few occasions when the Rams did penetrate Maryland's half. "I thought the guys dealt with the demands of the game," the night's head coach Brian Rowland said afterward. "They worked from the opening minutes right to the end. We'll keep building and hopefully gain in the quality of the attack but in terms of effort, in terms of commitment to each other and defending, I couldn't be happier with the group today."
Connection and hard work seemed to be the theme of the night for the Terps as both Jereme Raley and Mael Corboz talked about it in their post-game comments. Said Raley, "I thought everyone was connected and we worked hard. I think it was unfortunate that we didn't score more goals but overall I thought the result was good."
One might be reluctant to say that Maryland was content to sit on the one goal lead but VCU had altered their game plan to play behind the ball and look for counters. Still, Maryland didn't develop a truly dangerous chance until the 82nd minute. It came on a left side attack initiated by Mikey Ambrose. The Terrapins' midfielder played the ball into the box to fellow midfielder Alex Shinsky. VCU made a solid tackle on SHinsky but he managed to play the ball out wide to Jake Areman. David Kabelik one-timed Areman's cross but Gardan made a quality save.
Gardan had another quality save late in the 87th minute on a shot by Michael Sauers and Maryland had one final chance on a foul by Gardan just outside the box for which the goalkeeper drew a yellow card. Mael Corboz's shot curled directly into VCU's defensive wall and the clock wound down giving head coach of record Brian Rowland his first unofficial win.
Maryland returns to the pitch Sunday afternoon to take on Big Ten leader number 2/3 Penn State Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm at Ludwig Field in College Park.