In the 24th minute, Maryland men’s soccer earned its third penalty kick of the season. But instead of sending usual penalty-taker Stefan Copetti to the spot to give the Terps the lead, head coach Sasho Cirovski opted to go with Max Riley.
The Terps missed their previous two penalty kicks, and Riley’s kick had the same result. He skied the ball over the top of the goal, and in a match where Maryland had just one shot on goal, the missed opportunity once again proved costly in an eventual 1-0 loss to Wisconsin. The Terps (1-4-2) have now gone five straight matches without a win.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen Max ever put [the ball] over the bar,” Cirovski said. “We have to continue to find the right person that can step up and deliver.”
The Badgers (4-2-3) scored the game’s sole goal in the 72nd minute, when Maryland goalkeeper Jamie Lowell made a crucial mistake in front of goal. Lowell couldn’t handle a cross that slipped from his grasp, leading to a quick tap-in goal by forward Markie Hrvojevic. The Terps’ goalkeeper was also injured on the play and had to be carted off the field.
“It’s too early to tell, so we’re going to have to take a look at him tomorrow,” Cirovski said. “He’s going to be evaluated by our doctors.”
Maryland was forced to become more assertive with the ball, but its lack of finishing ability hindered its offense. Both Kimani Stewart-Baynes and Copetti had point-blank opportunities, but their shots went right into the clutches of Badgers goalie Nate Crockford.
“Again, we just didn’t make a play on a simple cross,” Cirovski said. “And now we just don’t get the results.”
Maryland’s offensive possession in the opening minutes was a noticeable improvement compared to previous matches. Precise through balls along the sideline set the pace, and a well-placed ball near the top of the box created an excellent early scoring opportunity.
Despite an initial cautious and slow approach, Wisconsin still managed to create scoring opportunities of its own, as its efficient passing in the final third kept its forwards dangerous around the box.
The Badgers actively engaged their defenders in the offensive play, with their center backs pushing up to support midfielders in the attacking third. This strategy added versatility and kept the Terps’ defense on their toes — Wisconsin had nine shots compared to Maryland’s five.
Midway through the first half, Stewart-Baynes, one of the team’s standout talents, entered the game. Cirovski decided to start him on the bench, but Stewart-Baynes wasted no time making an impact. A long ball over the top set up an exciting footrace that he won, showcasing his exceptional speed. It would have led to a goal if not for Crockford, who stepped in to clear the danger.
The Terps’ offensive struggles were exacerbated by their impatience. Instead of allowing the wingbacks to join the attack, the midfielders frequently sent poorly placed balls that often landed at the feet of Wisconsin players.
The Badgers had more breakaway opportunities than the Terps and were also more successful on corner kicks, nearly doubling their lead in the 75th minute when a headed effort hit the crossbar.
In the final minutes of play, the Badgers effectively wasted the clock away, handing Maryland its fourth loss of the season.
Three things to know
1. Offensive miscues. The Terps continued to struggle without a clear scoring threat, resulting in indecision and a lack of conviction. Botched free kicks and off-target crosses highlighted the imperfections in the offense.
2. More missed penalties. It’s a pressing issue that requires immediate attention. Maryland has missed all three of the penalty kicks it’s taken, with three different players failing to score. In the most recent attempt, Riley shot the ball far over the goal.
“It’s been frustrating because all three guys that have missed the penalty have been terrific in training,” Cirovski said.
3. Another goalkeeper mistake. Similar to goalkeeper Mikah Seger’s mishap against Penn State, Lowell made a costly error. A high cross from a Wisconsin attacker that was initially in Lowell’s hands slipped from his grasp, leading to an easy Wisconsin goal.