There was little time for Maryland Men's Soccer to fully appreciate their tremendous win over No. 1 ranked UCLA on Friday night in an absolute classic in front of a record crowd at Ludwig Field. That would be because Akron came to town this evening, providing another difficult early test for Sasho Cirovski's club. It appeared as maybe the short turn around from that win, which required a lot of energy, may have affected them and they fell 3-2 to the Zips for defeat number one in the 2015 season.
The match was cagey and physical at the start. Both sides committed a few fouls in the opening five minutes and neither team built up any sort of attack. Akron had the first corner of the match, which came to nothing. The Zips also had the first shot of the game, courtesy of Adam Najem off a free kick, which was blocked. Maryland's first shot came from Mael Corboz, it also was blocked.
Pace of play began to pick up past the ten minute mark, with the teams getting a bit of possession in. However there were no big opportunities that came from it. Akron forward Stuart Holthusen had a shot blocked with twenty minutes played in the half, but like the preceding two shots it was blocked. Three shots had been attempted just shy of halfway through the first half and none had found the target.
That wouldn't last long though, as Akron broke the deadlock with 22 minutes played in the first half. Adam Najem hit a shot from the near post inside the 18 yard box that clipped off the back post and in, giving the Zips a 1-0 lead and Maryland their first deficit of the entire season. It was going to be a new challenge for a young Terps team to deal with.
Maryland wasn't able to build up a big response to going behind, and Najem nearly notched his second goal six minutes later, again getting behind the defense before dragging his shot wide. With half an hour gone in the opening half, Akron led 1-0 and Maryland had not yet recorded a shot on goal.
A host of changes followed to try to spark some life into the Terps. Connor Smith, David Kabelik, Andrew Samuels, and George Campbell all entered for Jake Areman, Eryk Williamson, Tsubasa Endoh, and Sebastian Elney. The changes did breath some new life into the team, and a flurry of shots followed. Amar Sejdic had one go wide and also blocked. Ivan Magalhaes also had a shot blocked. While they weren't yet able to test Jake Fenlason in the Akron goal, they were growing into the game.
Despite the wave of pressure, it would be Akron who found the next tally of the game, on a fantastic strike from Richie Laryea - who assisted on the first goal - from 19 yards out following a turnover by Maryland. With 39 minutes gone, Akron had a 2-0 lead and was in control.
At half-time, the score still remained 2-0 to the Zips. Maryland had a few moments here and there in the first half, but nothing close to the sustained pressure and attacking verve they had showed in their opening three contests. Akron didn't have many opportunities but they took full advantage of the ones they did have, and that put them in a very good position with 45 minutes to play.
You felt that Maryland needed a strong start to the second half if they were to mount a comeback, but the beginning of the half was much like the majority of the 1st. Just not much happening for Maryland. The passing was slower and the overall energy of the attack just wasn't quite there.
Mael Corboz had a shot blocked in the 59th minute, but otherwise, the opening 15 minutes of the half so little action on either side. There were quite a few fouls though, as the physicality of the game ramped up in absence of end to end attacking play. Jake Areman and Eryk Williamson entered in the 64th minute, looking to provide some sort of life for the Terps.
The subs did give Maryland some positive possession and that possession would pay off with a goal. Sebastian Elney rose high to head in a Mael Corboz corner kick with 67 minutes gone to get the Terps back in the game. Set pieces can often be exactly what a slow attack needs to find a goal, and Elney - who's proving a terrific aerial threat - took advantage of a wonderful delivery to put his side back in the game.
Almost immediately after his delivery to Elney got Maryland back in, Corboz nearly leveled the match up with a great effort from 23 yards out. It just went over. The first save of the match remarkably came in the 75th minute, with Endoh forcing one from Fenlason. '
The pressure continued to come from Maryland following the goal. Jorge Calix had a shot go wide and Corboz delivered another great cross from a corner, which found the head of Alex Crognale, but the defender's attempt was blocked. Calix had another shot, but this one went high.
Maryland's inability to take their opportunities contrasted Akron's ability to take the few they had. Completely against the run of play, Richie Laryea completed his man of the match performance, getting Akron's 3rd, as he broke through the defense, had his first shot saved by Dayne St. Clair in the Maryland net, before chipping into the empty net to put the Zips up 3-1.
That wasn't the end for Maryland though. Corboz put in another delightful cross, which found David Kabelik, and a man often a super sub for the Terps got them right back in the game less than two minutes after they appeared dead and buried.
Maryland made a big push to find an equalizer, but it was to no avail. Akron prevailed 3-2, handing Maryland their first loss of the season.
Three goals allowed would make it seem like Maryland's back line played poorly. I'm not sure they did. Akron created about three chances and took all of them. That happens. The Terps attack lacked what we had seen in the opening three games for long stretches, but they found some life in the final 20 minutes and made a strong surge. In the end it wasn't enough to get the win, but it was still nice to see them hang in there and give the Zips a real fight after being down 2-0.
Maryland opens Big Ten conference play Friday night against Michigan from Ludwig Field.