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No. 24 Maryland men’s soccer defeats Akron 1-0

The Terps get back in the win column after losing two consecutive matches.

Maryland soccer vs Akron Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

With a red cloud of dust swirling above the riotous Crew faithful, Eric Matzelevich galloped across the pitch at Ludwig Field after sending a missile past Akron keeper Tor Saunders’ outstretched left hand and into the back of the net.

Midfielder Nick Richardson and right wing Malcolm Johnston worked together to poke the ball free to the foot of Matzelevich, where the junior seized upon the opportunity to score his second goal of the 2019 campaign.

The match’s first and decisive goal came in the 17th minute and would eventually give No. 24 Maryland men’s soccer a 1-0 victory over Akron — its first win since Aug. 29.

“I thought tonight was a tremendous win for our team, it requires a championship effort and tonight I think we got it,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “[Akron] might be the best 0-4 team in the history of college soccer, and I expect that they’re gonna be a contender as the year progresses and I wouldn’t be surprised if we might see each other later again.”

The Terps (2-2) were the aggressors from the match’s initial tap, pressing Akron (0-4) on every attempted clearance while staying organized in their pursuits toward goal. They managed three shots on goal in the first half, their most in the first 45 minutes so far this season. The effort was led by Matzelevich and sophomore forward Brayan Padilla, registering a combined three shots on goal, to give the Terps four for the full 90.

“We put a lot of work in this week,” Matzelevich said. “It was just training all the way through to this game and the main focus was pressing and staying connected, so obviously it paid off.”

Defensively, Cirovski struck true to rotating his freshman goalkeepers in-and-out game by game, with tonight being Niklas Neumann’s turn to start in net for the Terps.

In his first action since being bombarded by a relentless Virginia attack a little over a week ago, Maryland’s backline managed to keep the young German keeper much cleaner for the better part of tonight’s match. Only allowing one shot to make it on net in the first half. Akron’s offensive organization improved as the match continued, threatening to equalize on several occasions but ultimately put just one shot on goal in the second half as well.

“They’re a good attacking team, they know how to keep the ball,” junior defender Ben Di Rosa said. “We knew that just have to hold a block a eight, just keep shifting, keeping rotating and block some shots when we need to.”

Maryland remained the more disciplined club on the ball as well, committing seven fouls and receiving one card compared to 17 fouls and three cards for the Zips. This gave the Terps some added opportunities to create off of set pieces, including one in which Padilla nearly scored from over 20 yards out.

This also marks the third time in their first four matches in which the Terps have been the lesser penalized squad, a testament to the level of discipline Cirovski has his team play with.

Tonight’s win pushes the Terps to 2-2 on the season, starting off their four-game home stand on a strong note. They’ll face Villanova this Monday night, followed by matchups with Northwestern and St. Johns to close out their early season non-conference slate.

Three things to know

  1. The Terps offense is starting to get going. Given what Cirovski has had at his disposal offensively over the last two matches, he can’t help but feel good about the way his offense has performed. Although only getting one across in tonight’s match, the Terps were inches away in several occasions from converting, a welcome sign considering the lack of experience on that side of the field.

“I think the stigma is like ‘oh freshman, they’re not ready for the game’, but Justin Harris looked like he was a senior out there, Malcolm [Johnston] the same,” Matzelevich said. “Huge credit to them, they did an absolutely amazing job, and looking for big things in the future.”

2. Brayan Padilla looks like the real deal. For someone who most likely wouldn’t be seeing as much time as he has been if Paul Bin, Will Hervé and Luke Brown had not gone down, Padilla certainly has looked the part of a starting forward. Although Padilla couldn’t get into the scoring column tonight, he led the team in shots and showed off his impressive touch on set-pieces, with Cirovski looking more and more comfortable putting him in those spots.

“Brayan is a rhythm player, and he’s a player that I think is gaining confidence every week in training,” Cirovski said. “He’s a goalscorer, he’s a guy that is a gifted attacking player.”

3. Maryland gets bitten by the injury bug once again. Just when you thought the Terps might be able to make it out of a match unscathed, senior captain Eli Crognale suffered a lower body injury that kept him from playing the final 15 minutes of the match. He managed to limp off under his own power, but losing someone of Crognale’s stature for an extended period could be a huge blow.