Maryland men’s soccer needed a goal. After starting the season 0-2-2 and being shut out for all 400 minutes of play, the Terrapins’ outlook was bleak. Despite the extraordinary efforts of the back line, a victory was becoming increasingly elusive.
Through 76 minutes of Monday’s game against West Virginia, the Terps still couldn’t find the back of the net. Amar Sejdic had three separate scoring chances early on, but he failed to register a single shot on goal.
“Those are chances for me that I have to finish,” said the senior. “And the team has to rely on me for it.”
Then the 77th minute came, and changed the trajectory of the season in a flash.
Sejdic had possession of the ball and passed it to Vinicius Lansade coming down the right side of the field. The freshman crossed the ball towards the center of the box, but it was headed away by a West Virginia defender.
At every other point of the season thus far, that would have been the end of the scoring chance. This time, though, senior Andrew Samuels corralled the rebound with his chest, passed it to fellow senior Chase Gasper, and the rest was history.
“At practice we’ve really been focusing on our crossing and finishing,” Gasper said. “We did a good job at pressing the ball, working it up towards the left side. So when I got the ball, it just came natural. I did what we did at practice.”
The former UCLA transfer sized up his defender, beat him towards the goal, and lofted a pass towards a running Sejdic, who jumped and let everything fall in place. Turning around in mid-air, his back shoulder caromed the ball into the corner of the net, narrowly avoiding the fingertips of West Virginia’s goalie.
“I’m just happy I saw Chase make that run, whip the ball in, and I just put my body between the guy and the ball and it went in,” Sejdic said.
“It was such a joyous moment,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said after the game. “It’s been a long time since we’ve scored. We just needed to put the ball in the back of the net.”
For a team that lost its top three scorers from a year ago and has been forced to rely on younger players in the early goings, it was a trio of seniors who combined to produce the most important moment of the season to this point.
“It’s about leadership,” Cirovski said. “We’ve been asking Amar to get in the box in so many different ways. He had two really, really good looks that he otherwise finishes. So for him to make that hard run in that space, that’s the kind of stuff we need from Amar. It was a really good run. He was in a really good spot.”
After the miraculous goal, the defense did what it has done all year: limit the opponent’s attack. Thanks to a stout unit and exceptional play from goaltender Dayne St. Clair, the Terps were able to hold on to their 1-0 lead and get their first win of the season.
“We just needed to get a ‘W’ and that’s what we got tonight,” said Cirovski.
With Big Ten play right around the corner, it was crucial that the Terps got back on track for the games that matter most. Maryland’s next test will come on Friday as the Terrapins travel to Evanston, Illinois, for a battle with Northwestern. The Wildcats have a 4-1-1 record this season, which is among the best in the Big Ten.
“That goal was huge, it just sets the tone,” Gasper said. “This is a new start, a new beginning. Going into conference play, that’s just the motivation, the confidence booster we needed.”