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No. 7 Maryland men’s soccer defeats Ohio State, 2-1

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The Terps advance to 7-1 on the season.

Niklas Neumann Maryland soccer Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times, 2019

No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer looked to be coasting to a victory against Ohio State after a dominant first half, but the Buckeyes turned it up a notch in the second frame to pressure an otherwise rock-solid Terrapin defense.

While the backline has been the talk of the team over its recent stretch of play, goalkeeper Niklas Neumann played the hero for Maryland’s defense down the stretch.

In the 61st minute, Ohio State forward Channing Chasten received a grounder from the opposite end of the crease. This sudden shift in positioning left Neumann in no man’s land, yet the junior keeper reacted on a dime and extended his left leg to keep the Buckeyes scoreless.

Chasten came right back at Neumann following a penalty kick score from Ohio State, but once again Neumann came up clutch, making another stop with his leg on the right side.

Those two opportunities by Chasten defined a strong second-half performance by the Buckeyes, but in the end, the Maryland defense bunkered down and prevailed 2-1 in a hard-fought victory.

“[Today] was one of the first games this season for me where I had the opportunity to step up big time,” Neumann said. “I’m just happy that I could help the guys out because they have my back all season long, so it was time to pay them back.”

The Terps dominated the possession arrow in the opening 20 minutes, starting off aggressive then toning it down to a more conservative offensive approach.

A lackadaisical Buckeye defense let Maryland settle into its offense. That couldn’t have been any clearer than in the eighth minute when forward Jacen Russell-Rowe nearly capitalized off of a huge mistake by defender Nathan Demian.

Russell-Rowe trailed Demian as he made a ball-handling error in the pass attempt to his keeper, leaving just goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin between Russell-Rowe and a goal. The sophomore couldn’t convert as his shot hit the top right corner of the post, but it set the tone for what would be a lopsided first half.

Midfielder Parker Grinstead got off Ohio State’s first shot of the night in the 20th minute, but Maryland wouldn’t let the Buckeyes stay level with them much longer. Forward Joshua Bolma found fellow forward Hunter George wide open in the middle of the crease, giving the junior transfer a clear shot at scoring his first goal as a Terrapin.

The Buckeyes tried to keep up the pace after falling behind, but Maryland heavily pressured Ohio State’s backline in a truly dominant first-half performance. Gameplay constantly took place in the Buckeyes’ end of the pitch, leading to a +6 shot differential in favor of the Terps, including four shots on goal compared to just one for the home team.

Ohio State came out of the half with a bit more urgency, setting up five corner kicks in the opening ten minutes. The Terps responded by packing in its defense and did a tremendous job of fending off any chances, including a block via header at the goal line

Maryland’s offense fed off of the persistent defensive showcase in the opening moments of the second half, as midfielders Ben Bender and Nick Richardson chugged along the right side to eventually set up Bolma with the goal in the 58th minute.

The score marked Bolma’s third goal of the season and third point of the night in what has been a phenomenal sample size in conference play for the redshirt sophomore.

The excitement from Bolma’s second goal in as many Big Ten games set the Buckeyes up with an opportune chance to take advantage of the five-minute rule, as in the 61st minute Grinstead fed Chasten, forcing Neumann into no man’s land.

However, the goalie reacted in time to make the save, keeping Maryland’s lead safe.

Ohio State’s relentless approach wouldn’t be hindered for much longer, however, as the physicality finally caught up to the Terps and rewarded the Buckeyes with a penalty kick in the 67th minute.

Midfielder Laurence Wootton was called upon to deliver the gut punch to Maryland’s shutout efforts. Despite Neumann correctly predicting Wootton’s shot direction, the blistering attempt from the sophomore gave Ohio State some hope as the Maryland lead was cut in half.

Maryland’s defense remained sheltered in place down the stretch, as Ohio State suffocated the Terrapin defense and came fingertips away from tying the match on multiple instances.

“We didn’t do a very good job in the second half of holding the ball in the other half of the field to relieve some pressure at the front end,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said.

First, a chance by midfielder Xavier Green sailed just above the top crossbar in the 86th minute. Then, an 89th-minute attempt by Devyn Etling made contact with the top of the goal before Neumann corralled the miss and left the Buckeyes in awe.

Its relentless second-half push was all for naught, as Neumann’s boot down the field corresponded with the final whistle being blown — a sigh of relief for the Terrapins.

“It was frustrating to be in control and then allow a team to come back,” Cirovski said. “I think that we still have to find our killer instinct identity ... We know that we have the mentality to close out games, but we are making it more difficult than it should.”

Three things to know

1. It was a tale of two halves. Maryland’s defense looked to be the catalyst once again in another defiant victory of late for the Terps. After limiting Ohio State to just one shot on goal, it seemed like Maryland would continue its dominant defensive showing in the second half. That assumption wouldn’t be further from the truth, as Ohio State collected four shots on goal on eight shots in the final 45 minutes of action. Ohio State also earned seven corners in the second half, a testament to this match seesawing in favor of the home team down the stretch.

“I think we just came out in the second half stagnant, we got a little complacent after a great first half,” George said. “Once we get a lead we’ve kind of let it go a couple times, so we need to start working on that for sure.”

2. Ten different goal scorers for the Terps. George’s goal in the opening half marked the tenth player in Cirovski’s rotation to score this season, an incredible number that has been in the making since the beginning of the season. An injury-riddled spring season is well in the rearview mirror for the Terrapins as a healthy depth chart has shined bright in the first half of the season.

“I’ve been here for three years and I feel like I’m the most confident that I’ve ever been on the team that we have right now,” Neumann said. “I think we have a very talented team and I feel like every game somebody gets the opportunity to step up and use their strengths wisely.”

3. Maryland exacted its demons versus Ohio State. After winning the previous five meetings, the Buckeyes came into Ludwig on Feb. 27 and handed the Terrapins a difficult loss. It pushed the Terps to 0-2 and was labeled by Cirovski and other players as the team’s lowlight of the season. How else would Maryland respond than with a gritty victory against an experienced Buckeyes team coming off a big win against Akron. The Buckeyes showed their toughness with a fierce second-half comeback, but Maryland held on to secure its second Big Ten victory and improve to 7-1 on the season.