With just a minute and 45 seconds remaining until the match was called a draw, sophomore defender Brett St. Martin found himself in the right place at the right time.
After a corner kick from Johannes Bergmann bounced through the box to the foot of Matt Di Rosa, the junior defender lofted a prayer toward the net. The ball would drop right to St. Martin, where he’d ram it into the back of the net to give No. 25 Maryland men’s soccer the 1-0 upset victory over No. 9 St. John’s.
“It was a pretty good ball,” St. Martin said of Bergmann’s cross. “I kind of re-circled my run, turned around and kind of just got a flick on it, and it happened to go in the back of the net.”
Defenders came to the rescue all day for the Terps. For a St. John’s offense that had scored eight goals over its last two matches, Maryland’s back line and defensive midfield was stout against the Red Storm attack. The Terps held them to seven shots for the match, nearly nine less than their average of 15.67 per game, as well as four shots on goal.
“We changed our tactics a little bit,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Partly to combat some of their strengths but partly to take advantage of the remaining players available for selection. But I thought the guys came in and executed very well today.”
St. John’s improved its efforts on goal in the second half, getting two more shots on goal in the second half while coming inches short of going ahead in several occasions. But Maryland keeper Niklas Neumann was rock solid between the pipes, keeping the Storm at bay to send the game into overtime.
The Terps didn’t get out to as slow of a start as they have in each of their last two games, yet it was still nothing to be all that thrilled about for Cirovski.
While Maryland appeared to outclass St. John’s for most of the first half, maintaining firm grip possession of the ball while out-shooting the Red Storm 3-2, the Terps struggled to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.
The Terps had 11 shots in the contest, but consistently missed the net. Ben Di Rosa managed to get a shot on goal for Maryland in the second minute, but would not register another until the second overtime period.
In its efforts to try and shift the possession battle, St. John’s was aggressive in several of their attempts to dispossess Maryland’s attacking group. The Johnnies committed eight first half fouls compared to just two for the Terps, giving Maryland a few extra chances at creating on set-pieces.
But the Terps wouldn’t get the scoring look they wanted until the second overtime period, when St. Martin secured their first win over a ranked opponent.
“It was a team effort, guys just stepped up,” sophomore forward Justin Gielen said. “Everyone realized what they had to do in the game, and they stepped up and did it. From the forwards, to the backs, to the goalie, to everyone who came in throughout the entire game, it was a really good team effort.”
Three Things to Know
- Missing Crognale for an extended amount of time could spell trouble for Maryland. Although seeing Crognale in a reduced role in tonight’s match wouldn’t have been incredibly shocking given Cirovski’s intent to keep the senior healthy, him being inactive came as a bit of shock. As one of their emotional leaders on and off the field, Crognale’s status going forward will be important to monitor.
- It was a return to form for Maryland’s defensive unit. After an uncharacteristic performance last Friday night that saw it allow three goals to an offensively mediocre team in Northwestern, Maryland’s back line and defensive midfield stifled a St. John’s scoring attack for that currently ranks 11th in the country in scoring offense for nearly 109 minutes of play.
“We don’t shy away from any fight,” St. Martin said. “We have the confidence that we can beat any team, and it was just a good team effort.”
3. Niklas Neumann was sharp in his return to action. The freshman keeper from Germany appeared to have suffered a serious head injury a week ago in Maryland’s match against Villanova, having to get several stitches above his left eye after colliding heads with a leaping forward.
He was forced to sit during Maryland’s 3-1 loss to Northwestern, but returned to the starting keeper position for the full 90 minutes tonight. He recorded a career-high four saves, keeping his cool despite have to weather several pushes toward goal late in the match. Cirovski has yet to name a permanent starter in net yet, but Neumann’s performance tonight under the circumstances make his case pretty strong.