In a match deadlocked at 0-0 through 70 minutes, Ben Di Rosa took it upon himself to give Maryland men’s soccer the goal it needed to secure the victory.
Freshman midfielder Malcolm Johnston used a clever play with the ball to get himself free just outside the box, and he found fellow freshman midfielder David Kovacic who swung the ball to Di Rosa at the edge of the box. From there, the junior defender fired a rocket into the back of the net to put Maryland up by one in the 70th minute.
“David [Kovacic] gave me a great feed at the top of the box and I knew I had a little bit of space, so I took a quick touch and a quick hit,” Di Rosa said. “It was mainly about the feed, he set it me nicely and I knew I wanted to put it on frame.”
The Terp defense would hold for the final 20 minutes of play, giving Maryland the 1-0 win.
Having played just four days prior, Maryland (3-2) labored up and down the field for most of the match, making runs on goal but lacking the final touch necessary to beat Villanova (4-2) goaltender Carson Williams.
The Terps struggled to break through Villanova’s press, with head coach Tom Carlin clogging up the center of the pitch with his 6’4 midfielder Josh Belluz. Dispossessing the Terps with ease at times, their struggle on clearances helped the Wildcats maintain a majority of possession in the early going and stalled Maryland’s offense.
“I think they came out with a very good game-plan in the first half,” freshman midfielder/defender Nick Richardson said. “They were playing very direct, something that we really haven’t seen all year. So I think that gave us a little bit of a struggle in the first half with our press.”
However, Villanova’s vanilla-style of attack that predicated on long, lofted passes from one end to another didn’t give the Terp backline an overwhelming amount of trouble. Maryland held the Wildcat attack to just four shots and one shot on goal for the match.
The Wildcats’ leading point scorer, freshman forward Lyam MacKinnon, was held without a point for just the second time this season, while junior midfielder Theo Quartey managed just two shots for the whole match.
Maryland had a golden opportunity to go in front early in the second half, as Johnston’s takedown in the box in the 50th minute yielded a penalty kick for the Terps. With Johannes Bergmann stepping up to the marker looking to put Maryland ahead, Williams made a fantastic diving save to keep both teams level.
But Di Rosa would finally find the back of net for the Terps in the 70th minute to give them their second consecutive victory — the first time they've done so this season.
Three things to know
1. Luke Brown returns. After missing the past two games due to a hip injury he sustained against Virginia, forward Luke Brown finally returned to the pitch for the Terps. A senior grad transfer from Hofstra, Brown was expected to play a substantial role in Maryland’s attacking play entering the season.
“My hope for him was to get about 45 minutes tonight, and I think that’s about exactly what he got,” Cirovski said. “That was the whole idea with him, to make sure he gets a good amount of time, gets in there and helps. And we really needed him tonight.”
It appears Cirovski will ease him back into the swing of things, as he only played 47 minutes as a substitute in tonight’s contest, but Brown returning in any sense surely is a welcome sight.
2. Maryland could be without Niklas Neumann for a bit. The freshman keeper, who was just beginning to separate himself as the team’s starter, could possibly miss the next game or two after suffering an injury in tonight’s match. He appeared to have collided heads with MacKinnon in the third minute of the match, collapsing to the turf before being helped off the field by the team medical staff.
Freshman Russell Shealy performed admirably in his stead, but this could disrupt what was a growing chemistry between Neumann and the Terp back line.
3. Eli Crognale could be sat for the next few matches as well. After failing to finish Friday night’s match, the senior captain was held out of the second half of tonight’s match as well. Cirovski added after the match that he believes he’ll be fine.
“He overworks, that kid,” Cirovski said. “Against UCLA, he ran almost 10 miles. And against Akron, it was close to nine miles. He was gonna be questionable tonight before the game, so I’m proud he got some minutes in. But before the game we said, ‘If you’re hurting pull yourself out.’ And he did, and I appreciate that.”