In the 34th minute of Sunday’s matchup between the Maryland men’s soccer team and UMBC, midfielder Nick Richardson heaved a side out to fellow midfielder Ben Bender down the right side of Retriever territory.
Bender shook midfielder Ryan Becher and snuck a shot through goalkeeper Quantrell Jones’ legs, rewarding Maryland with a 2-1 lead. But the scoring wouldn’t stop there for Maryland’s first half efforts as they kept the pressure on Jones and the Retriever defense.
Four minutes later, midfielder Joe Suchecki found forward Jacen Russell-Rowe, who then found midfielder Malcolm Johnston for the three-touch goal. Johnston’s goal was indicative of Maryland’s ferociousness on the offensive end, which helped the Terps secure a 4-3 victory.
“For about 81 minutes we played outstanding tonight,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We dictated the tempo and the flow of the game. The only disappointment was that we didn’t handle the mental moments after our goals very well. It’s nice that we can learn through victory rather than defeat.”
Maryland mixed up its starting lineup a bit on Sunday, adding in freshmen forward Caden Stafford and midfielder Richie Nichols following their stellar debuts against No. 18 Charlotte on Thursday.
Junior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann made his return to the pitch after suffering a season-ending injury last year. He took the starting spot from sophomore Jamie Lowell who produced a clean sheet in the season opener.
The Terps almost got out to a fast start in the first minute, as an overplay by UMBC’s Jones left the net open for forward Justin Gielen. Luckily for the Retrievers, sophomore defender Hans Nesheim sent Gielen’s shot attempt away.
Despite the missed opportunity, Maryland dominated the time of possession in the early going, renting out real estate in Retriever territory for much of the first ten minutes of the contest.
Gielen and the Terps kept attacking. In the 17th minute, forward Bryan Padilla sent a cross from the right side to a diving Gielen, but Jones’s deflection knocked off the side post and ricocheted out of danger.
But Maryland came right back at the Retriever defense. A minute later, Gielen’s third shot finally found the back of the net via a midfield assist by defender Chris Rindov.
Gielen caught UMBC’s defense napping, but the score quickly woke up the away team. In the 19th minute, Becher’s through ball snuck past Neumann to find a cutting midfielder William Forby, tying the match up at one apiece in the blink of an eye.
Both teams had its fair share of opportunities following the back-to-back goals, but UMBC got the best chance when forward Taylor Calheira broke away in the midfielder past defender Alex Nitzl.
The outstretched left leg and arm of Neumann combined with the slide tackle attempt by Nitzl sent the ball off to the right, leading to a mad dash for the loose ball. Neumann came out on top versus the speedy Calheira, as the junior made a phenomenal diving stop.
Neumann’s three saves kept UMBC at bay and the offense rewarded its returning goalkeeper with more of a cushion.
In the 34th minute, off of the side-out throw-in by Richardson, spring breakout star Bender got his first goal of the season with a nice kick through the legs of Jones.
Maryland got to Jones again four minutes later, as Johnston scored his first goal of the season off of the assist by Suchecki and Russell-Rowe.
It was an ugly defensive effort by the Retrievers, with Russell-Rowe’s dish to a cutting Johnston down the middle of the crease getting past three defenders, making it a 3-1 ballgame heading into the half.
Maryland chose to run against the Retrievers as they tallied nine shots compared to UMBC’s four. They capitalized on UMBC’s sloppiness as well, with multiple opportunities sneaking past inattentive defenders and inducing eight fouls.
“We typically are known as a team that creates a lot of opportunities and puts a lot of pressure on other teams, [but] we’ve been a fraction of ourselves for the past two seasons,” Cirovski said. “This year we have some real talent and we have some real depth right now, so if we can keep them sharp and keep them healthy, I think we’ll continue to be a force.”
The second half started out extremely slow, with no team scoring in the opening 27 minutes of the second half. Despite the scoring drought, the first half intensity from the Terrapins carried over, specifically on defense.
While it wasn’t a clean sheet like against the 49ers for the Maryland defense, it certainly felt like one as UMBC’s offense stumbled to zero shot attempts in the second half. That all changed in the 82nd minute after Russell-Rowe broke the drought to make it 4-1.
Just like in the first half, UMBC responded almost instantly (seven seconds later) following the Maryland score, this time from Becher. While it seemed like a garbage time score for the Retrievers, Becher once again scored in the 86th minute to suddenly make it a game.
“It matters who's mind is right in those times,” Gielen said. “You have to look at yourself and realize that as a team, it wasn’t in that time and that’s what led to the goals. It’s just a matter of being mentally sharp.”
The urgency to score was on for UMBC, but Maryland was able to settle down and fend off any extra time. It was too little too late for the visitors, as the Terps moved to 2-0 on the year.
Three things to know
1. Maryland heavily pressured Jones. UMBC’s goalkeeper was going to be a tough test for Maryland if they didn’t get to him early and often, but that’s exactly what they did. Maryland’s constant pressure opened up the crease and led to 17 shot attempts. The intensity against Charlotte carried over into Sunday, as the Terps were all gas and no brakes from start to finish. Sometimes on breakaways and sometimes on snoozing UMBC defenders, the Terrapins made life just a little bit harder for Jones.
“We just knew we had to be very aggressive with the shot and get him on his back feet,” Gielen said. “As long as we did that and get him in his own head, and then The Crew can help us out a fair amount in that process, I think that it turned out for the best.”
2. Is there a goalkeeper conundrum brewing in College Park? Both Neumann and Lowell have filled in admirably between the posts in Maryland’s first two outings this season. Lowell prevented any score from the nationally ranked Charlotte 49ers, while Neumann made several phenomenal saves in his season debut. Only time will tell what Cirvoski will do with the goalie position this season, but he certainly has capable options at his disposal.
“Our intention is to rotate both Jamie and Niklas,” Cirovski said. “We’re going to continue to rotate and protect them from themselves.”
Nitzl added, “They are both incredible and I think it’s great for our team that we can switch them whenever we want to.”
3. Maryland will be ranked. A big win against No. 18 Charlotte followed by a victory against in-state rival UMBC has practically guaranteed Maryland’s ascent into the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 national rankings. The question, however, is how far will Maryland climb? As of now, the Terps are the unofficial No. 26 team in the country due to 17 votes received in the preseason poll. They also have an exhibition victory against No. 3 Pittsburgh under its belt, further cementing Maryland as one of the top teams in the country.