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Maryland men’s soccer kicks off Big Ten play with 2-2 draw against Michigan

The Terps are winless in their last three games.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

With less than a minute remaining and the score knotted at two, freshman forward Kimani Stewart-Baynes lined up for a free kick in a dangerous area.

Curving the ball into the box, all of Maryland men’s soccer’s forwards vied for position near the goal, but none could manage a clear opportunity to shoot. Instead, a quick foul awarded possession to Michigan, and the Terps’ first Big Ten matchup of the season ended in a 2-2 tie, despite them outshooting the Wolverines, 15-6.

“I’m very disappointed with the result today,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We did a number of things well enough to win this game, but once again, we gifted the opposition an easy goal and put ourselves in a hole early in the game.”

It was an uneventful first five minutes, with both sides feeling each other out.

A yellow card issued to Michigan in the 10th minute of play gave the Terps a scoring chance, but defender Bjarne Thiesen sent a header just wide of the goal.

In the 13th minute, Michigan midfielder Quin Rogers sent a lofting ball over a flat-footed Maryland defense, which allowed forward Michael Leon to easily tap in the opening score.

Maryland came alive following the goal, winning races to 50/50 balls and bombarding Michigan freshman goalkeeper Isaiah Goldson. Forward Max Riley and midfielder Leon Keohl fired shots from well beyond the box, testing the youngster.

In the 27th minute, Maryland hit pay dirt, as a set piece from beyond the box produced a Kenny Quist-Therson score. The true freshman received a phenomenal pass from Stewart-Baynes to generate the chance.

Maryland’s ball movement was on full display in the first half; it was calm, composed and intelligent. Using the midfield to their advantage, the Terps were better able to find forwards for scoring chances.

In the 35th minute, Maryland highlighted the command it had on the Wolverines — using all three phases of the pitch — with the ball eventually finding the feet of a wide-open Luke van Heukelum, who gave the Terps a 2-1 lead.

Cirovski also made some well-timed substitutions in the first 45 minutes of play, with a balance of tenured and young players seeing game action. Veteran midfielders Justin Harris and Joe Suchecki provided leadership and poise, while the aforementioned van Heukelum and freshman Henrik Sakshaug brought speed and explosiveness.

With the lead, the Terps were not nearly as aggressive to start the second half, rather focused on limiting mistakes. On defense, Maryland adhered to a distinct shape, which prevented the Michigan attack from penetrating the box or threading together consecutive passes.

In the 62nd minute, though, Michigan broke through to tie the game. A sudden lapse by Maryland’s defense allowed Michigan midfielder Bryce Blevins to get a point-blank opportunity. He made no mistake, evening the game at two.

The game got a bit chippy in the ensuing minutes, as Maryland defender William Kulvik and Michigan midfielder Duilio Herrera were both issued yellow cards after getting into a scuffle. Minutes later, Kulvik was issued a red card after getting into another scrum, forcing the Terps to finish the last 10 minutes of the game a man down.

Captain Alex Nitzl showed his displeasure with the ruling on Kulvik’s foul, saying, “I told [the referee] I disagreed. I just want to play soccer.”

Understandably, the energy picked up almost immediately after, with the Terps attack booting a flurry of shots on the cage, but it was not enough to find a winner.

“Obviously it’s disappointing to tie, especially at home,” Lowell said. “It’s not how we wanted it to go.”

Three things to know

1. First half fortune. It was a notable turnaround from the previous two games for the Terps, as they quickly got on the front foot. Although Michigan scored first, Maryland seized control of the game for the remainder of the half, showcasing its resilience and ability to recover. The Terps outshot the Wolverines, 5-3, in the opening 45 minutes.

“I thought we played quite well through the last 30 minutes of the first half,” Cirovski said. “[We] should have carried that momentum into the second half, but we were just not good enough in the final third once again.”

2. Different contributors. It was a welcome sight for Maryland fans to see some new faces contribute on the score sheet. With goals by van Heukelum and Quist-Therson, the Terps may have discovered some well-rounded options to play through as the season continues.

“I thought our young players did a nice job today,” Cirovski said. “I think we just need to get our veterans to raise their level.”

3. Lack of discipline late. When Kulvik received a red card, the Terps found themselves in a very challenging position, playing a man down for the final 10 minutes. It was a situation that could have been avoided, but sent a message nonetheless.