No. 11 Maryland men’s soccer was knocking on the door all half after entering the final 45 minutes up a man against Virginia at Audi Field. The Cavaliers’ defense did their best to prevent Maryland from breaking the 1-1 tie, but that all changed in the 70th minute.
Defender Chris Rindov delivered a pass through two defenders to freshman midfielder Griffin Dillon. Upon receiving the pass, Dillon tapped it to forward Brayan Padilla, who uncorked a snipe from long distance that sailed into the top left corner of the net.
The writing was on the wall for Virginia’s second-half collapse following a late red card to finish out the first half, and the Terps fulfilled its goal by securing its first win against Virginia since 2015 by the score of 2-1.
“I thought our guys did a great job of executing a cool and composed plan in the second half,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We moved the ball really really well, we had many many chances and we put them under some pressure. It was only a matter of time until it hit dividends.”
The Battle for the DMV was back in full force at Audi Field for the first time in 735 days. These two met twice previously in the slate of neutral games, with Virginia capturing a 2-0 upset victory in 2019 after drawing with the Terps in the year prior.
Overall, Maryland holds the advantage in college soccer’s most notorious rivalry with a 41-30-10 record, dating back all the way to 1941.
Virginia didn’t shy away from the physicality early on, committing three fouls in the first four minutes of play. But those advancements gave Maryland plenty of leeway on the offense as they fired a corner kick to no avail in just the 4th minute of play.
The Terrapins then traded places with the Cavaliers, committing a foul of their own to assist Virginia in gaining a chance on offense. That too, however, was thwarted away by stellar defensive rotations as a cross from midfielder Isaiah Byrd was deterred by goalkeeper Niklas Neumann.
Defense was the name of the game as neither team fired off a shot in the opening 15 minutes of play. Despite the lack of offense, Cirovski stuck to his guns and didn’t make a substitution until the 20th minute.
Midfielder Malcolm Johnston finally got off the first real look at the net right before the substitution, but sophomore goalkeeper Holden Brown made the diving deflection the preserve the 0-0 deadlock.
Maryland’s defense had allowed Virginia to stake its claim on their side of the pitch for too long and despite the Terrapins owning the lone shot attempt in the game, it was Virginia who struck first off of the left foot of freshman forward Michael Tsicoulias in the 26th minute.
The 5-minute rule came into effect a minute after Tsicoulias’s score, as forward Jacen Russell-Rowe made a beautiful feed to forward Hunter George. But Brown read the through ball and was there to make the stop on the transfer seeking his first goal in College Park.
Padilla came back at the Cavalier defense in the 35th minute, but once again Brown was there to make the save. An off-target shot from forward Caden Stafford then preceded another missed opportunity from the Terrapins on goal in the 38th minute, with midfielder Ben Bender’s grounder getting saved by Brown — his fourth of the evening.
The opportunities continued to pile up for the Terps as Russell-Rowe broke off down the field, only to be denied yet again by Brown for his sixth save in the 44th minute. Stafford then lined up for a strike off of the deflection from Brown, which fired off of the top crossbar to leave Maryland with no goals on six shots on goal.
High drama commenced with just a minute left in the half, as forward Daniel Wright — who had picked up a yellow card in the 15th minute for flopping — picked up another for his slide tackle on defender Brett St. Martin, ending his night prematurely.
Upon replay review, the foul seemed to be on Tsicoulias, but the referee stood his ground, leading to a furious Virginia bench as they were met with the task of finishing out the match down a man. Maryland on the other hand was gifted a break in what was an otherwise frustrating half on both sides of the ball.
“I think the big message was to make sure we don’t get casual and complacent, which is sometimes what can happen when you go up a man,” Cirovski said. “We want to continue with pressure with and without the ball and then we also have to be very disciplined.”
Maryland came out of the intermission with urgency, as they took advantage of the extra man and dominated the time of possession. And while it took a bit for Maryland to register on the player advantage, Virginia’s physicality finally caught up to them in the 61st minute.
The 14th foul from the Cavaliers was a foul in the box on George, leading to Bender taking the penalty kick and delivering the first goal of not just the game for the Terrapins, but the first of this three-game set of Audi Field matches versus Virginia.
It was a much-needed shot of adrenaline for the Terrapins, as they finally erased the donut on the scoreboard following 12 shots, including seven on goal. As the 70th minute waned away, the Terps found themselves in a prime position to take over.
That opportunity came in the 70th minute, as Rindov and Dillon assisted on a deep ball from Padilla, marking the eighth different Terp to score on the year and giving Maryland the late 2-1 lead.
“I think it just says a lot about the team,” Padilla said. “Everyone’s been working hard and making each other better and training every day. Everyone’s ready for their moment.”
Maryland didn’t let up following Padilla’s game-breaking score, firing in two more shots to try and gain a little more of a cushion. But the huge goal by the senior forward was all the Terps needed as they fought back to improve to 4-0 on the year.
Three things to know
1. The Battle for the DMV did not disappoint. It had been nearly two years since the last meeting between these two bitter rivals and this rendition left nothing out on the table. It was physical, there was both defense and offense and it had a controversial call that set the tone for a phenomenal second half. The intensity was unmatched and The Crew was just as emphatic at the neutral site as they have been at Ludwig.
“For me it was really easy to get into the game when it’s this big of an environment,” George said. “Right away you feel the first tackle and then bang you’re into it.”
In the end, fouls on Virginia’s end proved catastrophic and the Terps were able to prevail for the first time at Audi Field.
2. Holden Brown had a day. The sophomore goalkeeper, making just his third appearance at the collegiate level, was a force to be reckoned with against the Terrapins’ high octane offense. The chances were there, but Brown made sure the Terps couldn’t capitalize thanks to a career-high nine saves. Maryland was pressuring Brown all night with a sizable +15 shot margin, including 11 shots on goal. Despite the loss on his season long record, Brown showed more grit than the result can attest to.
3. The Terps are off to a strong start. After a disappointing spring filled with slow starts and injuries, Maryland has skyrocketed back into the national spotlight with a 4-0 start. With key wins over then-No. 18 Charlotte and DMV rival Virginia, a special year could be in store for Cirovski’s squad. Up next though is Maryland’s biggest test yet, as they travel a bit further west for a marquee showdown against No. 2 Georgetown at Shaw Field on Sept. 11.
“We haven’t looked past the next game so we have to keep doing that,” George said. “Once you start looking at the next games that’s when you lose track of what’s in sight.”