Having just had its momentum squashed with an equalizing goal from the opposition, a Maryland men’s soccer team that has struggled to score on most evenings was now tasked with getting a second goal to get the result it needed.
But despite only scoring multiple in one match all season, the Terps found a way to pull ahead. Freshman midfielder David Kovacic saw just the fifth shot of his collegiate career find the back of the net to put the Terps up by one in the 77th minute, and he added on another shortly after to take a 3-1 victory.
“I was really proud of our guys,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “At halftime, we talked about being a little more composed and just making better decisions, both technically and tactically, in the final third and I thought in the second half we did that.”
After being shut out in their last match despite totaling season-highs in shots and shots on goal, the Terps came out aggressively in an effort to redress their missed opportunities.
They would get off to an early lead on the attacking end, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in shots (three on goal) through the first 30 minutes of the match. The Scarlet Knight offense would battle back with seven shots of its own, but the Terps would ultimately win the battle with 17 total for the match.
Leading the offensive effort was junior forward Eric Matzelevich, who surpassed his offensive output against Wisconsin in his first 20 minutes of action, totaling four shots and two shots on goal with relative ease.
Matzelevich would continue to push envelope into the second half, generating three more shots before ultimately firing a bullet into the bottom right corner to put Maryland ahead 1-0.
“On a night like tonight where it’s just chance, after chance, after chance, it’s really important to get a goal,” Matzelevich said. “Any goal is amazing, to get three is special and to get them at Ludwig is even better.”
The Terps looked ready to cruise to victory following the emphatic go-ahead goal, showing no signs of slowing down their offensive onslaught upon the Rutgers defense.
But a perfectly-placed 40-yard pass from midfield by Rutgers’ Nick Cruz sliced through Maryland’s back line and found the foot of Pablo Ávila, who managed to out-run defender Brett St. Martin and chip it past Neumann to draw the Knights back even.
Maryland would respond 15 minutes later, though, as a corner from freshman midfielder Nick Richardson would drop into the box and into Fola Adetola’s possession, tapping it back to Kovacic where the freshman would launch his first career goal past Rutgers keeper Oren Asher to put the Terps back in front 2-1.
“To be honest, I felt it coming,” Kovacic said. “I just hope it’s like open now ... we want to win games, and if you want to win games you have to score goals.”
Kovacic wouldn’t stop there either, putting away his second career goal in the 85th minute to put Maryland ahead 3-1. Coming off a lofted ball, fellow freshman Chris Rindov popped it into the air and across the keeper’s box, where Kovacic would find it and hammer it into the back of the net for the game-clincher.
Three Things to Know
1. It was a coming-out party for David Kovacic. For a relatively unheralded freshman midfielder, Kovacic was Maryland’s hero in tonight’s match. With Eli Crognale looking less than 100 percent and the Terps missing a few of their key creators, Kovacic’s two goals were crucial to Maryland coming out with the victory. They were also the most scored by a single player in a game this season.
2. Niklas Neumann played well once again. Niklas Neumann made his third consecutive start in net for Maryland, this time sans the protective headband he had worn to protect the head injury he suffered against Villanova on Sept. 16.
The freshman keeper looked calm and cool between the sticks once again for the Terps, allowing just one goal on the seven shots Rutgers took. Cirovski has yet to name an official starting keeper yet, but Neumann’s solid play certainly should make him the favorite going forward.
3. The Terps were without Brayan Padilla. The dynamic forward played one of his best games in a Maryland uniform last Friday night, notching six shots and four shots on goal in a career game for the sophomore. But an injury to his left knee during warmups forced him to watch the entirety of the game from the trainer’s table.
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