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No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer draws with No. 24 Rutgers, 0-0

Neither team was able to break through in regulation or two overtime periods.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

As regulation approached its end between No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer and No. 24 Rutgers, the Terrapins made one final push with a feed to speedy forward Joshua Bolma down the left side.

On the cutback against defender Thomas DeVizio, the refs called a tripping foul, but they didn’t prompt a stoppage of the clock in a controversial decision.

Maryland’s bench was irate over the no-call, leading to forward Justin Gielen being handed a yellow card over the dispute as regulation came to a close, the fourth of the game between the two Big Ten rivals.

The wild ending magnified the physical nature of the contest between two of the conference’s best defensive units. Two extra-time periods ensued, producing much of the same as neither team could breakthrough.

In a game in which both sides had plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the offense’s production and the questionable officiating, it ended in Maryland’s first draw of the season in a 0-0 grudge match in College Park.

“It was just not one of our best nights,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “I just felt like we didn’t have our legs tonight. We still hung in there, we still pushed to the end to try to get the result. We’ll just move on to the next one.”

The Terrapins entered Tuesday’s game as the third-best defensive team in the Big Ten based on goals allowed per game (0.89), trailing second best Rutgers (0.67). This set up a defensive battle of epic proportions between two top 25 foes.

Maryland was the aggressor in the early going, but Rutgers used its speed to deter the firecracker start. This led to the Scarlet Knights shifting the tides thanks to some unforced errors by the Terps.

The eighth minute encapsulated Maryland’s turnover woes, as an errant pass to goalkeeper Niklas Neumann gifted Rutgers a corner kick. Luckily for Maryland, defender Joey Zalinsky’s header sailed over the net for no dice.

Maryland continued to succumb to the press from Rutgers, but because of the similar formations from each side, Maryland was able to combat the Scarlet Knights with pressure of its own as they settled into this one.

The more relaxed approach led to the Terps getting a few good looks at scoring. Bolma sent a blistering shot into the waiting hands of goalkeeper Oren Asher in the 19th minute before midfielder Ben Bender got a second look 28 seconds later that went over the top.

The physicality ramped up as the offenses failed to find quality chances. Just two shots for both sides with 15 minutes remaining in the half led to seven combined fouls, including a yellow card from defender Cole Sotack for his slide tackle on Gielen.

The back-and-forth action continued, with defender William Kulvik highlighting a strong Maryland defense as the half waned away with no score. Forward Caden Stafford fired in the first shot attempt in over 20 minutes at the 39-minute mark, but that was all that would come.

Defense was the story heading into this one, and it was the name of the game at the halfway mark as the Terrapins held the shot advantage, 3-2.

“We’ve played great defensively and then we had chances that were just not used,” Neumann said. “We could have put other teams away in previous games just by scoring more goals and I think that’s what kept us away from the win tonight.”

Maryland got off to a promising start in the second half with an early corner opportunity, but Rutgers held down the possession arrow for a decent chunk of the first ten minutes.

It was a mirror image of the first half, as Maryland suffered from overcommitments, leading to a handful of turnovers due to miscommunication and a lack of patience in transition.

When Maryland did get its chances, the refs weren’t budging on the cry for fouls from the Terrapin sideline. Things really started to pick up after forward Hunter George and Asher jawed at one another after George intruded on Asher’s landing space on a recovery by the keeper.

High drama continued as Rutgers head coach Jim McElderry was handed a yellow card following a disagreement with the referee concerning the Scarlet Knights’ tenth foul.

The refs continued to draw dissatisfaction from each side, as a blown offside call on Rutgers gave the Scarlet Knights the first real look at goal from either side in the second half.

The 60th minute breakaway by forward Ola Maeland led to a phenomenal save with the trusted right foot of Neumann. The deflection, however, found forward Ritchie Barry, but midfielder Malcolm Johnston came soaring in to thwart away the threat from Rutgers.

Rutgers and Maryland continued its jawing, but a key yellow card on midfielder Gabriel Addo gifted the Terps a golden opportunity at breaking the deadlock. The free-kick opportunity, taken by forward Joshua Bolma, was too high, however.

Four minutes later in the 72nd minute, forward Brayan Padilla scorched a lefty missile too high. Then, a lead pass to George on the next Terrapin possession was ruled offside to the dismay of the transfer junior, leading to the third yellow card of the half and fourth overall.

Maryland was on the cusp of breaking open this grudge match and it almost came to fruition in the 77th minute, as Padilla’s cross from the right side nearly connected with the Superman-esque diving header by Gielen.

With all the momentum seemingly on Maryland’s side, the lack of conversions allowed Rutgers to nearly sneak a game-winning goal past the Terrapin defense. The Terps have no one to thank but the right post, as midfielder Jackson Temple’s shot in the 84th minute was just off target.

Maryland responded almost immediately off of the boot of Padilla in the 85th minute. Asher was able to poke the senior’s shot away before making an athletic save off of Gielen’s follow-up.

With seconds remaining in regulation, Maryland’s final attempt at snatching victory wrapped up on a controversial clock management call on Bolma’s cutback just outside the crease. With such a controversial ending to regulation in a physical match, the Terps looked to put this one away for good in its first extra time outing of the season.

Out of the gates, Maryland got the offense churning, with Bolma receiving a feed down the left side. In a deja vu moment, the foul was on DeVizio, but this time the referees rewarded Bolma with the free-kick and handed out the third yellow for the Scarlet Knights.

The fouls kept piling up for Rutgers, as forward Colin Beasley gained the sixth yellow card of the game in the 95th minute. Midfielder Anthony O’Donnell then picked up a foul — an eye-popping 17th for Rutgers — to set up a free-kick just outside the box, one that George couldn’t wrap around the wall.

The Scarlet Knights began to gain some offense, but another save from Neumann with his right foot sent the match to a second overtime period.

Aside from a 101st minute shot attempt by Gielen, the two sides couldn’t come up with many options as the game approached the finish line. A corner kick feed to defender Chris Rindov was the best chance either team had in the final 10 minutes, but the senior’s header missed wide left and segued into the final whistle.

Three things to know

1. It was a battle of similar styles. The 3-4-3 formation has worked wonders for the Terrapins as of late, but Maryland finally met its equal as the Scarlet Knights ran the same defense-heavy scheme. The formation allowed both teams to isolate the ball handlers and pressure the ball the length of the pitch. The test of who executed the formation better came down to a tightly contested, defensive showcase that neither team could mount.

2. Maryland’s draw isn’t the best result, but it pushes it forward in the standings. The Terps surely would have liked to come away with a win against the Scarlet Knights on their home turf, but a draw gives them an extra point in the Big Ten standings. Maryland now sits with two wins and one draw in the conference, giving it seven points, which is one more than Indiana in the same amount of games. Building off the physicality from this conference matchup will be key down the stretch.

“The Big Ten’s a big battle,” midfielder Nick Richardson said. “There’s a lot of teams that kind of play that way and that’s kind of how college soccer goes. I think we have to grow from it. It’s a good learning experience and it just prepares us for the future.”

3. The Terrapins showed major grit. For all intents and purposes, this was the toughest and most physical game of the season so far. Filled with a plethora of fouls and rock-solid defense may not jump off the page, but the intensity was unmatched between two equally matched Big Ten contenders. The Terrapins didn’t put forth its best overall performance, but although the offense was lacking its defense showed up.

“Today was nothing to do with a system or formation, it’s just that we were a little bit off, just a little bit fatigued,” Cirovski said. “I think this is the sort of dog days of the middle part of the season. I thought the effort was outstanding, just the quality could be better.”