In the 43rd minute of Saturday’s highly-anticipated matchup between No. 7 Maryland men’s soccer and the top-ranked Georgetown Hoyas, the Terrapin offense seemed to finally break through after a rough offensive first half.
As the Terps were down 1-0, a free-kick from defender Nick Richardson connected with the head of forward Justin Gielen. The initial attempt by Gielen hit the right post, but off of the ricochet, the senior seemingly footed in Maryland’s first goal of the match, knotting the score up at one as the second half was in sight.
Maryland’s celebration was halted in an instant, as the referee’s offside call became apparent. The look at goal was one of just a handful of chances the Terrapins made at scoring, as the single shot on goal by Gielen defined the offensive struggles against Georgetown, leading to a 1-0 loss.
“This was an early season measurement and we didn’t measure up,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We started the game slowly and had to grow into the game.”
Ahead of the game, Shaw Field held a moment of silence to commemorate 20 years since the Sept. 11 attacks in remembrance of the lives lost.
The Hoya faithful started off the game in absolute pandemonium as the offense occupied Maryland territory in the early going. The Terrapins looked scrambled by the Georgetown pressure, leading to a quick goal in the sixth minute from forward Stefan Stojanovic, assisted by midfielders John Franks and Chris Hegardt.
With the goal, goalkeeper Jamie Lowell’s clean sheet streak came to an end after 185 minutes of keeping the opponents off the scoreboard this season.
“No team expects to go down early in the game, but it’s soccer, it happens and you kind of just have to forget about it as a team,” midfielder Malcolm Johnston said.
The Terps continued to look a step behind the Hoyas, with the offense struggling to gain any traction on the opposing side of the field. Transition defense was lagging behind as well, with Georgetown’s five shots in the opening 20 minutes largely coming off of Maryland miscues in the midfield.
The Terrapins kept their composure, however, as the offense set up a fine cross to forward Jacen Russell-Rowe in the middle of the crease. The sophomore’s first start of the season could have started off with a bang as he rose for the header, but goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis was right there for the save in the 21st minute of action.
Maryland continued to find its footing as the half waned away, with physicality on 50/50 balls being the main benefactor. While they paid the price a few times — with defender Alex Nitzl and midfielder Griffin Dillon picking up yellow cards 30 seconds between one another — the Terps weren’t backing down after the opening frenzy from the Hoyas.
Johnston was all over the place, thwarting many transition efforts by Georgetown, while defenders Chris Rindov and Brett St. Martin pushed the Hoyas out of the center attack and to the outskirts of the pitch.
The 43rd minute saw the Terps finally scrounge up a legitimate opportunity at goal, but Gielen’s goal on the second effort was called offside. The initial shot ricocheted off the post, to which Gielen volleyed into the back of the net, but the equalizer was taken off the board to the dismay of Maryland’s staff.
The post wasn’t too kind to the Hoyas soon after, as forward Marlon Tabora came the other way and fired a shot off the right post, deterring the sophomore from his first career goal.
Solid defending by Richardson on Tabora’s effort stabilized the score heading into the half, but the defense still found itself playing on its heels for much of the opening 45, with Georgetown winning the shot advantage, 12-3.
The physicality was in full force to start the second half, as forward Will Sands picked up the third yellow card of the game between the two sides in the 53rd minute.
Two minutes later, that aggressiveness nearly paid dividends for the Hoyas, as a miscue by Nitzl led to an opportunity for the pursuant Stojanovic.
St. Martin made the stop on a slide tackle, but the loose ball found the foot of midfielder Dante Polvara. Luckily for the Terrapins, Rindov blocked the shot before midfielder Zach Riviere’s rebound rolled wide right.
Maryland continued to fail at maintaining possession, leading to another pair of shots by the Hoyas. This time, however, Lowell was in prime positioning to make the stops and keep the match within reach for Maryland’s struggling offense.
They got a few shots off to close the gap in the shot department a bit, but nevertheless, it was a lopsided shot disparity for the Terrapins, something not seen in the slightest from the nation’s hottest rising team in the polls.
Maryland finished with a -13 shot differential today, a far cry from the team’s average of +10.25 in that department. Georgetown’s pressure was just too much for the Terps to respond to, leading to a lackluster defeat in its first true road game this season.
“Overall, I think we defended pretty well, but there was just a few too many lapses that gave them the opportunities to obviously get that one early and then a few chances they had,” Rindov said. “Not great, but decent.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland paid the price for a sluggish start. It was a disaster start for the Terrapins, as the Hoyas were in extra gear, leading to a sixth-minute goal. Maryland had its moments, but overall the first half was dominated by Georgetown, as evident by the 12-3 shot advantage the top-ranked team held. Maryland entered halftime trailing 1-0 in its last game as well, but without the extra man situation, the Terps dealt with the difficult task of mounting a comeback in an even playing field on the road.
“I feel like we weren’t going at them with 100 percent,” Johnston said. “I gotta give credit to Georgetown they really shut down our players ... just wasn’t our night.”
2. First loss of the season for the Terps. Maryland has officially dropped its first game of the season after a perfect 4-0 start. The Terps have beaten then-No. 18 Charlotte, UMBC, George Mason and Virginia, but the matchup against the nation’s best proved too much for an already talented Maryland side. Despite the loss, Maryland will still find itself near the upper portion of the Big Ten standings.
3. Another week off from competition. Maryland will play its third game across 11 days against Michigan on Friday, Sept. 17, setting up a much-needed break in action following two tough matchups. Cirovski will certainly look to get his offense in a better mental state during the extended time off with its conference opener looming.
“We had some very good moments in the game, but obviously it was a poor start and not enough quality attacks,” Cirovski said. “The purpose of this game was to make us stronger, that it will, and we certainly hope to have another shot at Georgetown at some point later this year.”