In the 55th minute of action between No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer and Michigan, the defensive battle up to that point finally proved consequential for the more aggressive Wolverines, as a foul from midfielder Uriel Zeitz, the team’s tenth, set up a free kick near the crease for the Terrapins.
Skilled forward Joshua Bolma was called upon to serve up the potential game-breaking kick and he delivered.
Bolma became the second multi-goal scorer for the Terrapins this season on the phenomenal free-kick that wrapped around Michigan’s wall of defenders. The beautiful shot found the bottom left corner, leaving goalkeeper Hayden Evans swiping for air.
The intensity was high in the conference opener for both teams, but in the end, it was the tie-breaking goal by Bolma that opened up a scoring spurt from the Terrapins that would do enough to stave off a feisty Michigan team, 2-0
“I thought we controlled the tempo of the game in the first half, but had nothing to show for it,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We came out in the second half with great conviction and much better quality and earned a couple of really good goals, possibly could have had more.”
Michigan was in control through the opening five minutes, but Maryland’s defense, which featured Alex Nitzl returning to the starting lineup and William Kulvik making his first career start, limited the Wolverines to one corner kick and no shot attempts.
Despite allowing Michigan to live on its side of the pitch, Maryland broke the pressure with Bolma speeding down the left side. The redshirt sophomore cut down the end line and found midfielder Malcolm Johnston wide open in the middle, but his shot sailed high and over The Crew to hand possession back over to the visitors.
Michigan continued to dominate the possession arrow through the opening 15 minutes, but once again Maryland tailed off and ran once the arrow switched. It was a give-and-go from forward Jacen Russell-Rowe to Bolma that almost broke the deadlock, but Michigan was able to swarm Bolma and not allow an attempt from the feisty forward.
Maryland kept its foot on the gas once it gained possession. In the 22nd minute, midfielder Ben Bender flicked a backward pass to Russell-Rowe, in which the sophomore uncorked a shot that sailed over the crossbar.
About a minute later, after a yellow card on forward Nick Rasmussen allowed the Terps to advance the ball, Russell-Rowe’s second shot on the night soared high as well, leaving Maryland with no shots-on-goal in three attempts.
The clock continued to tick with no team making many strides on breaking the 0-0 tie.
Michigan was keen on working the ball around on offense but had just three shot attempts to show for it. Meanwhile, the Terrapins were moving the offense quickly once they gained possession, but four of its six first-half shot attempts flying over the net further personified Maryland’s first-half struggles of late.
The Big Ten rivals were locked into a defensive battle as the half came to a close, with just one shot on goal on nine shot attempts between the two teams.
As the second half commenced, Maryland came out as the clear aggressor. They got into the box a handful of times in the opening ten minutes before they were awarded a free kick in the 55th minute, in which Bolma capitalized on to finally put the Terps on the board.
“I think it was just having a little bit better connection between players in terms of where a player wants the ball,” Cirovski said about the team’s halftime adjustments. “I thought our passing was much crisper and there was just a little more balance in the way that we attacked.”
Moments after his goal, Bolma was subbed out of the game for midfielder Justin Harris, foreshadowing Maryland’s ninth different goal scorer on the season.
In the 64th minute, the junior converted on his first career goal off of a double assist by Johnston and Bender. Michigan’s defense parted like the Red Sea for Harris just outside the crease, as the Clarksville local chose to let it loose and found the bottom left corner to make it 2-0.
“I honestly didn’t know what to do when it went in,” Harris said. “I was just filled with emotion, it was amazing.”
Bolma added, “He’s my suitemate so I’m really glad we’re repping tonight. Montgomery Hall for the win.”
Maryland seemed to be on their way to a fifth victory as its offense continued to pressure the Wolverine defense, but Michigan was able to catch the Terrapins off guard in the 73rd minute with a goal from senior forward Derick Broche, assisted by midfielder Kevin Buca.
Suddenly, after a second-half dominated by the Terps, Michigan was firmly back in it.
Two corner kicks by the Wolverines with just under ten minutes left failed to convert. However, Maryland came right back at them for two of their own, which were also unsuccessful, yet set the stage for a down-to-the-wire grudge match.
The final minutes lagged along due to a plethora of injuries, further highlighting the physical nature of this one, but despite Michigan continually knocking on the door, Maryland’s defense held its ground to prevail and improve to 5-1.
Three things to know
1. Maryland is back to its winning ways. It may not have been the most elegant victory of the season, but Maryland improved to 5-1 after suffering its first loss of the season to Georgetown. Not only that, but the Terrapins locked up its first conference win of the year against a solid opponent. It’s a promising start to a Big Ten slate that Maryland foresees as conquerable for the first time since its 2016 conference tournament victory.
“I think we’re gonna be seeing [the physicality] a lot as we the season goes on because these guys are gonna come out and challenge us,” Bolma said. “You’re gonna have to come out really hard to be able to stop us and I think we’re ready for it.”
2. The Terps corralled Michigan’s steady midfield. Maryland’s Achilles heel in the loss to Georgetown on Sept. 11 was its struggle to contain the opposing offense in transition. The Terps allowed 21 shots to their eight, ceding way too many opportunities to the Hoyas.
With three standouts in the midfield for the Wolverines, Maryland was immediately faced with a foe that would expose that Achilles heel once again. The response was shaky at first, with Michigan spending 39% of its first half time of possession in Maryland’s crease, but the Terps held it together to finish out with a decisive possession total.
“I thought we got better as the game progressed,” Cirovski said. “It’s an outstanding defensive performance when you hold a team like Michigan to four shots over 90 minutes.”
3. Maryland’s first-half woes continued. It has now been 167 minutes since Maryland has scored a goal in the first half, dating back to Bolma’s first career goal in the 13th minute against George Mason on Sept. 3. Three games have passed since then, in which Maryland has gotten off the same amount of shots as its opponents and has been outscored 2-0.
They have started off slow as of late, but in today’s match, it didn’t prove to be too consequential in the grander scheme of things. But as the level of competition figures to increase as the season progresses, Maryland may not be as fortunate as they have been if it can’t figure it out offensively in the opening 45 minutes in future matches.