With the “Battle for the DMV” underway, No. 9 Maryland men’s soccer found itself with a 1-0 lead over Virginia and dominating the time of possession. In the 35th minute, though, Virginia began to make its move. It was awarded multiple corner kicks and strung together three consecutive shots.
The Cavaliers were headed back up the field with hopes of scoring their first goal, but Terps junior defender Alex Nitzl made a play on the ball and punted it up the field to graduate midfielder German Giammattei.
With one defender in front of him, Giammattei reached into his bag of tricks and finessed his way into the box. With senior midfielder Justin Harris charging down the field, Giammattei dumped the ball off right in front of the goal area, gifting Harris a tap-in.
It was one of a plethora of goals Maryland scored on the evening en route to a dominant 6-1 win over Virginia in Washington D.C. on Monday evening.
“Really, really proud of the team’s performance tonight. It was an inspired response to a disappointing performance on Friday. From the first whistle to the last whistle, I think our guys played with a tremendous amount of pride,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “It was more like the kind of Maryland team that I think we should be and hopefully tonight was the finding of our identity.”
The annual Labor Day match between Maryland and Virginia was back in full force at Audi Field this time around. The Terps’ last four matches against the Cavaliers have been played at the neutral site, though Maryland’s loyal fans filled up the majority of the stadium. The Terps entered with a 1-1-1 record in these matches.
The rivalry got off to a slow, but physical start. The ball was ping-ponged at midfield for the first five minutes before senior forward Hunter George took an elbow to the face and was awarded a free kick. Maryland could not capitalize on its first opportunity of the game and the teams continued to battle.
Virginia finally got the ball onto Maryland’s side, looking to make a play. Junior midfielder Axel Ahlander received the ball just outside of the box and delivered a strike. A swarm of yellow Maryland jerseys quickly collapsed into the box, deflecting the Cavaliers’ first shot of the match.
As the Terps regained possession, George snuck through the defense and found freshman forward Colin Griffith at the top of the box. With a defender on his hip, Griffith drove into the box with a chance to give Maryland the lead. As Griffith planted his feet, he was tripped by Virginia junior defender William Citron, giving the Terps a penalty kick in the 21st minute.
Senior midfielder Malcolm Johnston lined up in the box and prepared for the penalty kick. He paused right before he attempted the kick, and Virginia junior goalkeeper Holden Brown flew to the right side of the goal. With the left side wide open, Johnston tapped the ball in for the first goal of the game.
Only three minutes later, Maryland found itself with another golden opportunity. The Cavaliers were awarded a free kick, but it backfired, as redshirt senior defender Nick Richardson intercepted the pass and led a four-on-one fast break. Richardson dumped it off to sophomore midfielder Griffin Dillon, but Virginia sophomore defender Paul Weise made an impressive slide tackle to send the ball out of bounds.
The two teams traded shots before the Cavaliers began to take control. Virginia rattled off three straight shots as it was on the brink of tying the game at one.
But, Nitzl suddenly stole the ball from freshman forward Andy Sullins and sent it up the field. With Virginia out of position, Giammattei left the ball at the edge of the goal area for Harris, who finished off the picture-perfect play in the 42nd minute.
Now down 2-0, the Cavaliers entered the second half with some urgency. In the 46th minute, junior midfielder Isaiah Byrd just missed the crossbar as he had an open shot on goal.
The momentum continued to swing in the 56th minute as Virginia junior forward Leo Afonso was met with a chance to score on a penalty kick. Afonso tried to go straight at senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann, but he was ready, swallowing up Virginia’s best chance to cut into the lead.
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Joshua Bolma checked into the game in 59th minute, flipping the momentum completely. Maryland scored four goals in the second half to put the game out of reach, all by different players, including by senior defender Chris Rindov, Dillon, Bolma and Giammattei.
Junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov scored the sole goal for Virginia in the 81st minute.
The Terps finished the night with a dominant 6-1 win to improve to 2-1-1 on the season.
Three things to know
1. No Bolma, no problem. Bolma was a game-time decision for Maryland after suffering a lower-body injury in Friday night’s match against No. 20 Denver. The electric midfielder was on the sideline for the entirety of the first half, in which the Terps were able to score two goals. Bolma stepped onto the field in the 59th minute and made an immediate impact. He shared and scored the ball, recording two assists and one goal in just 18 minutes of play. While Maryland did not need Bolma to win the game, he was the primary contributor in its second-half surge.
“They were already tired,” Bolma said. “I just came on, fresh blood and everything, [and] was able to contribute to this victory.”
2. The Terps were flawless on the offensive end. From start to finish, Maryland controlled the tempo of the game and got whatever it wanted on offense. The Terps fired off 15 shots, nine of which were on goal, and scored six goals, the most of the season. If Maryland can continue to capitalize on its opportunities, it should remain a top-10 team by the end of the season.
“It’s a strange game, you know,” Cirovski said. “Some games they go in and some games they don’t. So, thankfully tonight they went in.
3. Maryland dominated the Battle for the DMV. Virginia did not have an answer for the Terps, who scored at will and plugged many of its scoring attempts. This game was chippy and competitive for most of the first half, but Maryland blew the door open in the final 50 minutes. Maryland’s all-time record against Virginia improves to 42-30-10 and 2-1-1 at Audi Field. The Cavaliers will now have to wait a whole year to get another crack at the Terps, barring a postseason matchup.
“The idea of iron sharpens iron has been true to our rivalry. I have so much respect for Virginia and I think our series over time reflects it,” Cirovski said. “It means a lot, selfishly, for me. It’s an important [win] because I came to Maryland chasing Virginia, and anytime we get a positive result it’s a source of pride.”