A month ago Maryland was sputtering, not scoring many goals, and not looking like what you'd expect from a Maryland Soccer team. A month later they haven't lost since. Seven wins on the bounce, and they're in position with a win tonight to claim the Big Ten Regular Season title.
Maryland got off to the best start possible, with a great cross from Alex Shinsky turned home by Mael Corboz - the transfer FROM Rutgers - after just 4 minutes. 1-0 Terps. Rutgers responded well over the next few minutes, getting on the ball a bit and getting their first shot which was blocked. They also earned the game's first corner, which was dealt with well by Maryland.
After a little spell of a play from Rutgers, at the quarter hour mark the Terps started to impose themselves again. Dan Metzger had a header go wide, and two Tsubasa Endoh shots went wide as well. Just a few minutes later however, against the run of play, the Scarlet Knights got their equalizer. Nate Bruccoleri set up Rayon Gibbs from 8 yards out and a cool finish from Gibbs tied it up at one.
Maryland responded positively to the goal with Jeremy Raley getting a chance off a corner which he headed wide, and Michael Sauers forcing a save from David Greczek. With 33 minutes gone Sasho Cirovski decided to make a few changes, one of them bringing off Sauers for George Campbell. Four minutes later it paid off superbly. After good pressing from Campbell to win the ball back, he played a nice give and go from Metzger and finished well from 18 yards out to put the Terps back on top.
The play was very end to end to the close the half with both teams getting chances. Gibbs and Erik Sa tested Zack Steffen for Rutgers, while Alex Crognale and Metzger forced saves from Greczek just before half-time. And with time expiring in the first half, George Campbell scored another, but it came just after the clock reached triple zeroes, and it didn't count.
At half-time, the score was Maryland 2-1 Rutgers.
The first half was very fast-paced, end to end, and evenly matched. Maryland perhaps shaded the overall balance of play, but Rutgers didn't just try to absorb pressure and hope for a bounce or two to fall their way. They went forward with some verve themselves and created some chances. The Terps held the lead though, and were one half away from a Big Ten title.
The Terps started the second half very well, with Mikias Eticha having a shot blocked and then Shinsky forcing a save from Greczek. Maryland continued to control the game, and while not having many chances they weren't giving Rutgers any chances to get into the game and establish themselves in it.
Compared to the frenetic pace of the first half the second half was a lot slower, and many of the players seemed like perhaps they were a bit heavy legged after that pace and a long season. The game livened up just after the 70th minute mark though, with super sub David Kabelik making it 3-1 to the Terps and all but sealing 3 points and the Big Ten title for the Terps. Maryland didn't rest on it's laurels, and kept up the pressure. Tsubasa Endoh again went close - this time from a free kick - but his effort was saved.
Rutgers made it a nervy finish with just under a minute to go, as Mitchell Taintor got one back for the Scarlet Knights. But the Terps held on for the 3-2 win, capping a remarkable month that culminated in the Big Ten Regular Season title.
Final: Maryland 3-2 Rutgers
The game was back and forth, and while it may have dipped in verve and excitement in the second half it was still a terrific contest. Maryland may not have won this game a month ago. But they have made tremendous strides, are a confident bunch, and boast so many options going forward in attack. They finish the season with 16 points, good for 1st in the conference.
Next up is the Big Ten Tournament QF, which will be played Sunday in College Park where the Terps will host the winner of the game between ninth seed Wisconsin and eighth seed Rutgers.