Playing just 15 minutes away from his hometown of Gahanna, Ohio, senior midfielder Eli Crognale took to the pitch with plenty of family members looking on from the bleachers.
With a chance to put his team ahead early in the first half and put on for his family in attendance, Crognale played a perfect ball to sophomore forward Justin Gielen in the center of the box to give Maryland a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute and make the Crognales in the stands proud.
Ohio State (6-8-1) would put up a fight for the final 55 minutes of play, but the Terps’ back line held strong throughout. After a timely insurance goal from Malcolm Johnston late, the Terps (9-4-1) hung on for a 2-0 win over the Buckeyes.
Defender Johannes Bergmann, last week’s Big Ten Co-Offensive Player and Defensive Player of the Week, picked up right where he left off early in this one. He showed off his improved heading on the defensive end of the field, knocking away a pass that would’ve put the Buckeyes in a threatening position, while dropping a well-placed cross-field pass to set up Ben Di Rosa with an opportunity to play a ball into box.
Di Rosa would go on to have an active first 15 minutes of play, as the Terps funneled most of their early opportunities through the wings through Di Rosa. Relying on the height of junior forward Eric Matzelvich (6’2) and the springiness of Gielen, looked to out-leap the Ohio State defense on crosses from the corner.
The Buckeyes kept their composure with the ball in the air though, keeping pace with Maryland’s slew of leaping attackers to prevent any headed effort from reaching the back of the net through the first 30 minutes of play.
But they would eventually lose their marker on Gielen in the 35th minute, as the sophomore would dart past Ohio State defender Samuel Buzzas and head it home to put Maryland up 1-0 going into the half.
After registering just two total shots in Maryland’s 5-0 drubbing of the Buckeyes in College Park last season, Ohio State showed much more tact in its efforts on goal in Friday night’s match.
Led by senior midfielder Jack Holland and junior forward Matteo Bennati, Ohio State managed to maintain long bouts of possession in the Terp defending third, outshooting Maryland 8-4 over the first 45 minutes, but both sides would finish even at 13 shots apiece for the entire match.
Maryland demonstrated its offensive superiority as the second half got underway, maintaining its offensive connectivity on the Ohio State side of the pitch looking to extend its lead. With Ohio State pressing for an equalizer on the other end, both offenses went back-and-forth on scoring opportunities as time dwindled off the clock.
Ohio State came close to knotting things at one apiece down the stretch of the match, threatening on multiple occasions as the game drew closer and closer to the 90 minute mark.
But the Terps would silence any ideas of a possible overtime in the 84th minute, as Johnston fired one into the top right corner to give Maryland a 2-0 lead late.
The score came as a result of Matzelevich drawing four defenders in the Ohio State box before dropping it off to a wide-open Johnston, who launched one off the right foot to put the Buckeyes away for good.
Three things to know
1. Maryland finally has a win on the road in 2019. Following four straight road trips that saw the Terps fail to come away with a win, Maryland was able to fully out-class its opponent away from Ludwig Field for the first time this season. With just one more road match at Penn State next Tuesday before post-season play begins, the Terps are finally beginning to elevate their level of play away from home.
2. Maryland hasn’t allowed a goal in 305 minutes. After not allowing more than a goal in a single match since September 20th, the Terps have recorded three consecutive clean sheets over their last three matches. Led in large part by Bergmann, Maryland’s defense is beginning to look reminiscent of the unit that really came on at the end of last season.
3. It was a solid performance for Niklas Neumann despite some non-soccer issues. In his 10th consecutive start of the season, freshman goalkeeper Niklas Neumann put in yet another solid effort in net for the Terps. But it looked as though he wouldn’t be fit to play in the second half of Friday night’s match, as a stomach-bug issue pulled him from the pitch in the 35th minute. The freshman phenom would calm any concerns about his health, though, returning at the beginning of the second half and making two saves en route to a clean sheet.