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No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer defeats Michigan, 2-1, in Big Ten opener

Stefan Copetti scored the game-winner in the 67th minute.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer was outplayed by Michigan in the first half but was able to keep the score tied at one apiece. After head coach Sasho Cirovski made some adjustments during the intermission, the Terps retook the field and played like a top-10 team.

Junior forward Stefan Copetti was met with golden opportunities in both the 63rd and 64th minutes. He was wide right on a one-on-one fast break and then was smothered by Michigan sophomore goalkeeper Hayden Evans on his second attempt.

However, Copetti finally broke through in the 67th minute. Senior forward Hunter George dribbled past the defense and drilled a shot right at Evans. The goalkeeper was unable to handle it, and the ball slipped into the goal area. With the ball sitting in front of the net, Copetti charged into the box, tapped the ball in and regained the lead for Maryland.

The Terps would hold onto that lead, defeating Michigan, 2-1, in their first conference game of the 2022 season and improving to 4-1-1 overall. The Wolverines fell to 2-4-1.

“I thought the second half we were on the front foot. We certainly deserved the result,” Cirovski said. “It’s a tough place to play. It’s been a difficult week already. I’m just really proud of the team right now.”

Maryland’s Big Ten opener got off to a very slow start. Each team exchanged possession for the first nine minutes.

Things got interesting in the 10th minute as Michigan seemed to gain control. The Wolverines rattled off consecutive corner kicks, putting pressure on junior goalkeeper Jamie Lowell early. Michigan’s first shot of the game came in the 13th minute, but Lowell was there to scoop up the ball.

The Terps were able to manage the tempo through the next 10 minutes but were not able to create any quality shot attempts.

Michigan was able to retake possession in the 23rd minute, as graduate midfielder Kevin Buca went to work. The five-foot-four midfielder was able to sneak into the box and deliver back-to-back shots. The first one was blocked, but the second soared through the box, only to be saved by Lowell.

Evans was having a relatively easy first half, but the Terps changed that in the 30th minute. On a free kick, George sent the ball into the box. As Evans closed in on the ball, senior defender Chris Rindov was able to jump up and head it in, his second goal of the season.

The Wolverines could have responded two different ways: shut down and wait for a halftime pep talk or rise up to the occasion. They chose the latter. With the ball being passed around Maryland’s box, Rindov attempted to advance the ball, booting it across the field.

The pass was way long, though, as Michigan senior forward Inaki Rodriguez intercepted the ball and made his move. With only Lowell in his way, Rodriguez fired the ball into the right side of the net, erasing the Terps’ lead.

Lowell was under duress for the rest of the half as the Wolverines delivered shot after shot. One of the highlights of the first half came in the 40th minute, when Michigan sophomore defender Jason Bucknor nutmegged freshman defender Luca Costabile, but his shot was too high and ricocheted off the crossbar.

Lowell’s fourth save of the game came in the 45th minute, as he was able to prevent Michigan from holding a halftime lead.

Similar to the first half, the first five minutes of the second half were uneventful. Shortly after, however, the Terps were able to penetrate Michigan’s defense as George was able to piece together back-to-back shots.

In the 63rd minute, Copetti missed the net completely — Evans was the only one in his path. Just one minute later, Copetti’s second shot of the game was barley saved as Evans made a spectacular diving save. His third shot finally broke the goal line, as a missed shot by George left the ball right in front of the net for Copetti to tap in.

Maryland’s defense held strong in the final 27 minutes of play, denying each of the Wolverines’ five shot attempts to come away with the road victory.

The Terps will return home for their next game on Sept. 20 against Penn State.

Three things to know

1. Jamie Lowell made the most of a rare start. Lowell made his second start of the season Friday night, replacing senior goalkeeper and 2021 Second Team All-Big Ten selection Niklas Neumann. With a highly-anticipated match against Penn State on the horizon, Lowell took the field in order to give Neumann some rest. The junior continued to prove why the Terps are in good hands when Neumann graduates after this season. Lowell carried Maryland on his back for much of the first half, saving four of Michigan’s five shots on goal. He ended the game with five saves.

“I think we have two terrific goalkeepers. I consider them both starters. Niklas, obviously, came off of his best game, but he was just a little dinged up from the last game. So, Jamie stepped in and really, I thought, had a great game,” Cirovski said.

2. Maryland ramped it up in the second half. By the end of the first half, Michigan completely dominated, despite the score being tied at one. The Wolverines fired off 10 shots — five on goal — compared to Maryland’s four shots, just one of which was on target. But, the script was flipped in the final 45 minutes, as the Terps’ offense continued its elite play for the third straight game. Maryland outshot Michigan 11-5 in the second half, which was pivotal in Friday’s tightly-contested match.

“In the first half, Michigan made it difficult for us. They really were very compact and we just were not very mobile,” Cirovski said. “Second half, we were a little bit more direct... it was more like the way we wanted to play.”

3. Conference play kicks off with a bang. The Terps’ first conference game of the season resulted in a hard-fought win against a tireless opponent. Despite falling into a deficit twice, Michigan refused to give up and matched Maryland’s level of intensity all night. After winning three straight games, the Terps are on a roll and will need all of the momentum they can get come Tuesday night when they take on the 2021 Big Ten champs in Penn State.

“We typically have gotten off to a slow start in many of the years in the Big Ten and getting the win, especially on the road in a tough venue, is very good. As I’ve said, we have set some goals for the conference this year and it’s a good start,” Cirovski said.