Just 13 minutes into No. 11 Maryland men’s soccer’s matchup against George Mason, the pressure from its high octane offense began to get to the visiting Patriots in the form of redshirt freshman Joshua Bolma.
The highly skilled forward received a cross on the left side of the pitch from forward Hunter George. As Bolma made his move against defender Jakob Rylander, his hips went one way and his feet went the other as the Ghanaian showed off his remarkable dribble moves and leaving Rylander in the dust.
From there, Bolma took a gather dribble and launched a shot to the top right corner of the net, securing his first career goal with the Terrapins. The goal was the sixth of the season and the sixth different goal scorer for Maryland as they coasted to a 2-0 victory.
“We challenged our team to be better defensively coming out of the UMBC game, to be better in transition and to be better with the mental moments in the game and I thought they responded really well,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said.
The last Friday night game played at Ludwig Field was a 3-0 victory against Indiana on Oct. 18, 2019. Returning to play under the Friday night lights after 686 days away, Maryland aimed for a solid finish to its homestand with George Mason coming to town.
In the third minute, midfielder Nick Richardson heaved a throw-in from midfield to fellow midfielder Ben Bender — practically a mirror image of their side-out connection that resulted in a goal against UMBC on Sunday. But this time the opposing defense was there to thwart Maryland’s scoring effort as defender Jonathan Fawole came in for the slide tackle.
Maryland executed its quick and early game plan just like they had the previous two outings. They dominated the time of possession and were knocking on the door numerous times in the opening 15 minutes.
The Terps finally broke through off of the mesmerizing dribble moves from Bolma, giving Maryland the advantage in the 13th minute of action off the first goal of his career. The moment was all too surreal for Bolma.
“I knew [Rylander] was coming in hard, so I just gotta stay composed and then find where the goal is at and just do my thing,” Bolma said. “I can’t explain it. One of the greatest moments of my life.”
Despite the euphoric celebration from Bolma and his teammates, handling the 5-minute rule became the next task at hand, something Maryland struggled with during its last contest.
While they didn’t give up as immediate of a response to the Patriots as with UMBC, Maryland’s defense was still caught off guard as midfielder Luciano Covella’s left-footed shot rolled past goalkeeper Jamie Lowell towards an open net.
Sophomore defender Kento Abe had other plans. He played the George Mason attack beautifully, filling into the net and deflecting Covella’s shot high enough into the air so that Lowell could regain his position and snag a header attempt from forward Balint Kocso.
Maryland escaped the five-minute window but didn’t do much in keeping George Mason off its tails. Aside from a breakaway chance from forward Brayan Padilla, the Patriots occupied Maryland’s side of the field for a good portion of the end of the first half.
Opportunities began to trickle in for the Terps down the stretch, as back-to-back corner kicks were ultimately denied by goalkeeper Jackson Lee in the 40th minute. Nevertheless, the half came to a close with no movement on the scoreboard.
While the Patriots seemed to pick up the intensity a bit out of the halftime gates, Maryland wouldn’t let them forget its offensive prowess, as forward Justin Gielen shot a bit off-target on the right side in the 51st minute. Gielen came at Lee once again in the 61st minute, sending his shot high.
Things started to get more physical as frustration grew on the George Mason side. That’s been the trend thus far this season playing the Terps at Ludwig, as the 10-7 foul disparity on Friday accompanies a three-game -17 difference for Maryland.
George Mason’s blood began to boil even more in the 61st minute, as a corner kick from Bender found the head of defender Chris Rindov, who bounced in the goal to mark the seventh different goal scorer for the Terrapins.
Once again, Maryland adjusted well following its exciting score by holding off George Mason’s window of opportunity. The five-minute rule was a non-factor, showcasing the improved mental toughness from the Terps.
“You could see the players were tuned in and their effort backed it up,” Cirovski said. “We did give one chance to George Mason, but we took it off the line. Not a perfect game, but it was a very good effort by our guys.”
From Rindov’s goal onward, Maryland and George Mason each collected a yellow card while the Terps outshot the visitors 3-1, making it a +8 margin on the night. With the Terps limiting George Mason’s chances all evening, a third straight victory came without much resistance under the lights of Ludwig Field.
Three things to know
1. Versatility shined once again. Maryland has done a good job so far this season in managing its injuries and showing off its deep bench. That strategy by Cirovski shined even brighter on Friday as more names made an impact on and off the box score. The obvious standout was Bolma’s 13th-minute score, marking the sixth different Terp to score this season. Not only that, but in just his third appearance for the Terrapins, Abe logged 90 minutes for the defensive unit, including a save that stole a goal from the Patriots.
“Kento has been waiting for this opportunity — he waited all season last year and played two games and played fantastic,” Rindov said. “He’s always a great option and I’m very happy for him to get his first start in front of the crowd at Ludwig.”
2. Lowell recorded another clean sheet in net. In his two appearances this season, the sophomore Lowell has produced two clean sheets on just three saves. That’s certainly a testament to the defense in front of Lowell, but also to his instincts in the net in just his second season at the collegiate level. If Cirovski stays committed to a timeshare between Lowell and Niklas Neumann, Lowell should hit the bench against Virginia on Monday before returning to action on Sept. 11 against No. 2 Georgetown.
3. Maryland looks well-equipped for the Battle of the DMV. Labor Day at Audi Field will be the return of the Battle of the DMV against Virginia — the first time they’ve played in 735 days. The last meeting was a massive upset as No. 12 Virginia knocked off the top-ranked Terps, fresh off its national championship season in 2018. With three solid outings under its belt, plus no signs of true issues considering the plethora of injuries from the spring, Maryland looks to be a frightening sight for the Cavaliers on Monday.
“It’s a huge match against UVA and to play at a professional stadium is just a great experience,” Rindov said. “I’ll definitely have to step up and try to help the boys as much as I can being an upperclassman.”