Maryland men's soccer coach Sasho Cirovski may not have been happy with the outcome of the Terrapins' first three soccer games but at no point could he complain about their effort. At no point until, that is, their game at Navy Monday night which the Terps dropped by a 2-1 final score in front of a men's soccer record crowd of 2,522 at the Glenn Warner Soccer Complex. Monday night, at least, Navy was the better, more disciplined, harder working team.
It didn't look that way at the outset when Alex Shinsky found open space and drilled a shot to the near post from the top left corner of the 18 yard box in the game's first 20 seconds.. The save didn't overly challenge Navy goalkeeper Jackson Morgan but it seemed to announce the Terrapins' intentions. As it turned out, Shinsky's announcement was a bit premature.
In fact, it was Navy who would develop the first true cohesive attack and that would lead to them taking an early 1-0 lead. The Midshipmen held an extended possession in the offensive half but Maryland's defense held its shape well and forced the Mids to pass more laterally than to truly attack the goal. Eventually, the Terps forced Navy to play the ball all the way back to Morgan and this is where the trouble set in.
Morgan played a long ball that was twice headed forward. Making an overlapping run, Derek Vogel played the ball wide right to P.J. Seuss. Seuss played a cross to Daniel Camuti who took the ball just inside the circle. Camuti dribbled right to some open space and, with Steffen guarding the near post, placed his right footed shot through four Maryland defenders toward the far post. Steffen, looking as though he expected his defense to cut off that angle, simply stood frozen on the play. Just 3:18 into the game, Maryland had taken the game's first shot but Navy had the lead.
The early stages of the game must have been both physical and chippy. Referee John McCloskey issued three yellow cards - two to Maryland and one to Navy in the first 25 minutes. On the free kick off the first yellow card, Navy drove the serve wide of goal but earned a corner kick when Emmanuel Korvah chested the ball out of bounds. The Middies then created a few shaky moments for the Terps' defense on the corner kick but Maryland eventually cleared.
Seconds later, the Terps picked up a free kick of their own in the seventh minute with Mikey Ambrose playing the free ball from about 30 yards straight on to goal. Ambrose played a nearly perfect ball over the wall to Alex Crognale. However, Morgan came up the the diving save on Crognale's header.
After Freshman George Campbell took what may have been an ill-advised shot in a one on four situation, Navy countered with a strong attack in the tenth minute. At midfield, Vogel took a pass and first out fought and then out ran two Maryland defenders. He played the ball right to Mark Shiba who was inside the box in one dribble three yards clear of the nearest Maryland defender. The sophomore got his shot off as three Terps tried to close in. The shot was clean but Steffen, who had come far off his line made the sensational save.
On the whole in the first half, while Navy generated ten shots and forced Steffen into five saves, the Terps managed only six shots with only the two saves noted above barely challenging Morgan. The Terps' first half possessions were largely in their defensive half or in the midfield and they showed only minimal organization and little ability to break down Navy's defense when they did penetrate into the offensive half.
That approach appeared to change early in the second half. Though Navy opened with possession, Chris Odoi-Atsem picked off a Navy pass and got the ball quickly ahead to Jereme Raley. Raley and Jeroen Meefout played a little ping pong along the right sideline before the Dutch freshman saw an opening and turned up field. He ran a give and go with Shinsky and drove home a right footed shot to the far post from 12 yards out. Maryland had knotted the score just as the clock ticked into the forty-seventh minute.
The Terps' good fortune was relatively short lived, however, as Navy needed just six minutes to regain the lead. The Midshipmen picked up a free kick along the left sideline just inside eighteen yards in the fifty-second minute and Maryland defended that well. As Maryland tired to clear, Brock Dudley lofted a ball high in the air from near midfield. Vogel headed it ahead to Jamie Dubyoski who gathered the ball in and easily got behind Raley and Odoi-Atsem. Steffen came off his line but was in no position to be able to make the save. WIth 37 minutes to play, Navy had recaptured a 2-1 lead.
Maryland nearly took advantage of a strong chance to equalize the score. It came in the seventieth minute when Michael Sauers was fouled just outside the circle. Transfer Mael Corboz lined up the free kick from 24 yards straight on toward goal. Corboz got his shot over the wall toward the right post. Morgan dove to his left and made the save and, in the spectacular part of the play, twisted his body back to the right to palm the carom away just before an onrushing Jeroen Meefout could reach the ball to put in the rebound.
Morgan was hurt on the play. The injury may have happened when he reached back but he might also have collided with Meefout's boot. Nevertheless, Morgan had to leave the game to be replaced for the game's final 20 minutes by freshman Matt Burke. The Navy defense rallied around the freshman keeper and prevented Maryland from truly challenging him outside of a free kick with three and a half minutes to play in what would be Maryland's last chance.
Alex Shinsky picked up the foul when he was tripped about 35 yards from goal. Again it was Corboz and again, the junior played a beautiful ball into the box. Burke was able to punch the ball out but it came directly to Ambrose who chested the ball down and drove his shot from just inside the box. However, the ball was low and straight and Burke easily covered it at the six.
The clock ran out harmlessly and for the second consecutive year, the Terps open a season with a record of 1-2-1 in their first four games. Friday night, Maryland travels to Michigan to open their Big Ten slate. One week later, on September 19, seventh ranked Michigan State comes to College Park for Maryland's first home B1G contest.