No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer was the clear aggressor all night against High Point, but after having just one score to show for it, the second half entered dangerous grounds with the Panthers knocking on the door.
In the 78th minute, High Point got its chance from a shot by forward David Greene. The shot flew past goalkeeper Niklas Neumann and had nothing but real estate in front of it. Then in came defender Chris Rindov.
The junior came flying into the vacant space, jumping and kicking the ball out of harm’s way over the top crossbar to keep the Terps ahead. After the ensuing corner kicks, the rest of the defense recovered and kept the Panthers off the board, leading to a 2-0 victory.
“I’m very pleased with the result,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “I challenged our guys to start clamping down defensively and start pitching some shutout and I thought we did a great job.”
Nothing was going for either team in the opening few minutes as they traded possessions. Defender Brett St. Martin was the lone player to attempt a shot in the first nine minutes of action, setting the stage for Maryland’s persistent attack moving forward.
In the 9th minute, a feed through the middle of High Point’s defense set up forward Jacen Russell-Rowe with a shot that ultimately sailed wide left. Seconds later, forward Joshua Bolma took a crack at scoring off of a feed from Russell-Rowe, but goalkeeper Holden Trent denied Bolma’s attempt to make his second save on three shots.
Maryland gained possession largely on unforced turnovers by the Panthers. That in turn led to the Terps showing urgency on offense that has been lacking in the first halves of the last few games.
Taking advantage of High Point’s gifts, Maryland occupied opponent territory for much of the opening half. This led to four shot attempts to the visitor’s zero in the first 25 minutes of action, yet the disproportionate ratio failed to change the tallies on the scoreboard.
A real opportunity came in the 28th minute, as forward Hunter George had a one-on-one chance down the right side. His booming attempt was denied by Trent, leading to a rebound attempt by Bolma that was then blocked by a High Point defender.
Despite all the pressure from the Terps on the pitch and the antics from The Crew behind the goal, Trent held his ground. The Panther backline had the redshirt junior’s back as well, heading any danger out of the box.
It was only a matter of time before the Terrapins finally broke through, as in the 38th minute forward Justin Gielen tapped in the team’s ninth shot on the evening for the goal. Forward Brayan Padilla fired in shot number eight for the Terps, which ricocheted off of defender Finn McRobb into open space for Gielen to collect and push in past Trent.
“As a forward, by nature I started salivating,” Gielen said.
Even though it took longer than anticipated to stake their claim on the contest, Maryland’s dominance clearly showed thanks to a 63 to 37 time of possession ratio. The large disparity silenced High Point’s offense, leading to zero attempts by the visitors through 45 minutes.
“Shots for us are a result of successful building,” Gielen said. “We switched the formation in the last game and we’re just starting to get used to it and actually find our groove. We’re not gonna be surprised if that shot tally keeps going up.”
The second half started off much of the same, with Russell-Rowe kicking a screecher that missed a tad wide just two minutes in. After Russell-Rowe’s miss, Maryland finally ceded a shot attempt to the Panthers — a deep shot by midfielder Mason Marcey that was off-target high.
High Point kept it coming in the 59th minute, tallying its first shot on goal off of the foot of forward Alex Abril. Goalkeeper Jamie Lowell finally got loose on the attempt by Abril, as a diving stretch to his left marked his first save of the night.
With High Point’s offense starting to make its mark on the match, Lowell got more and more action before having to leave the game due to injury in the 66th minute. Neumann was tasked with finishing out the matchup, the first time this season one of the two had appeared in back-to-back games.
Maryland continued to play on its heels down the stretch and a clear-cut equalizer in the 78th minute seemed to be exactly what the Panthers needed, but Rindov became the hero and denied High Point the tying goal.
Fortunes continued to swing in Maryland’s favor, as in the 82nd minute defender Josh Dubost attempted a clear that traveled backward and into his own goal. The error on High Point’s defense came to define the long night for the Panthers, as Maryland’s offense swarmed them with a +10 shot differential.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s aggressiveness set the tone. Heading into Monday’s match, the Terrapins hadn’t scored in the first half of its last three outings. It was clear that the Terps were adamant about ending that streak against the Panthers, as Maryland fired off nine shot attempts in the opening half. That continued in the second half as they kept the pressure on High Point’s defense, but despite the improved tenacity by his squad, Cirovski wants more.
“I was disappointed with our precision in the final third,” Cirovski said. “I thought in this game we should have had much more than two goals. It’s something that we keep working on and I know it will come soon.”
2. The defense shined. With the lack of scoring in this one, Maryland’s defense was able to shine bright. Four defenders — St. Martin, Rindov, Alex Nitzl and William Kulvik — churned out a full 90 minutes and sealed off High Point for nearly the whole evening. The win was the third time that Maryland kept its opponent scoreless, but Nitzl isn’t satisfied quite yet.
“We need to put [opponents] under more pressure,” Nitzl said. “[High Point] found more guys out wide and this was a little bit tough for us because more center backs had to shift more in the backline. At the end it’s incredible and we fight for the game and we still didn’t give a goal away even if it got a little bit closer.”
3. The Terps keep taking care of business with a Big Ten slate coming up on the schedule. Maryland has now won six of its first seven games to start the season. The Terps have beaten just one ranked opponent, then-No. 18 Charlotte, but they have accumulated solid wins against Virginia and Michigan en route to a 6-1 record. Coming up, Maryland will see the likes of Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin and Northwestern before going back into a short stint of non-conference play.