After a very tight, scoreless 70 minutes at Ludwig Field in College Park, Ohio State finally broke through against the Maryland men’s soccer defense.
Buckeye midfielder Laurence Wootton sprinted into open field off a through ball on the right sideline into Maryland’s defensive zone and knocked a hard ground ball into the center of the Terps’ box, right in front of goalkeeper Jamie Lowell.
The ball flew into the feet of midfielder Joe Ortiz, who fired in a beautifully hit ball off his right foot past Lowell to break the stalemate and put Ohio State ahead.
The first goal scored proved to be the most critical moment of the match. No. 23 Maryland couldn't muster a late-game comeback, falling to the Buckeyes, 1-0, in the home opener Saturday afternoon.
“Just an extremely disappointing and depressing performance today,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “After the slow start Penn State, I expected us to be much better in the opening half and that certainly was not the case.”
Maryland is now 0-2 to start the 2021 campaign. The last time the Terps started a season with two consecutive losses was in 1992, which was the last season before Cirovski took over.
“I thought we trained really hard this week,” midfielder/defender Nick Richardson said. “We were really hoping to put a better performance after what happened last week but I think we just missed on the little things.”
Ohio State started with pressure right off the bat, which forced Maryland’s goalkeeper to be strong. Lowell had to be alert in the opening five minutes, as the Buckeyes worked a ball into the box that found its way on goal after being deflected by a Terp. But Lowell remained aware and punched the ball over the cross bar for a save to keep the game scoreless early on.
The Buckeyes continued to press Maryland’s back line with a few quality opportunities in the first half, but couldn't put one in the goal. Midfielder Xavier Green waltzed into the Terps’ box, side-stepping two Maryland defenders and toe-poking the ball just wide right of Lowell and the Maryland net in the 15th minute.
The Terps couldn't seem to get out of their own defensive third through the first 20 or so minutes, while the Buckeyes generated three quick corner opportunities. Maryland’s early counter attacks were consistently neutralized from Ohio State’s defense and it registered just one shot in the first half.
Maryland didn’t have its first real opportunity until the 26th minute, when sophomore defender Chris Rindov collected a bouncing ball off of a corner in the center of the box. However, his left-footed strike was blocked by a crowd of Buckeyes in the box.
Soon after Rindov’s chance, forward Eric Matzelevich contained a long cross near the right corner flag with some room and he one-touched the ball to a nearby Rindov, who delivered a beautiful high-arcing delivery towards the box. Freshman Ben Bender was lurking near the back post and managed to get a solid head on the ball, but it sailed over the Ohio State goalie Noah Lawrence in the 34th minute.
The stalemate continued from there, with both teams unable to find the back of the net up until the whistle sounded to signal the break. Both sides combined for four shot attempts and just one shot on target after the first 45 minutes in what was a tightly played half.
The start of the second half saw the Terps flip the script as they applied a greater amount of pressure on the Buckeyes’ back line in the opening seven minutes.
Nick Richardson sent in a cross off a corner kick, which fell into the feet of Paul Bin, who kicked softly it on towards the goal in the 53rd minute. Brett St. Martin managed to push it with more pace inside the box and Jacen Russell-Rowe used the inside of his right foot to deflect it towards the Buckeyes’ net, but it was swatted away by Lawrence. It was the best opportunity for the Terps up until that point, but the score remained 0-0.
Cirovski’s message to his team at the break was clearly received after a poor half, as the Terps managed three shots with two on target in the first 15 minutes of the final 45.
Russell-Rowe and forward Mike Heitzmann almost combined for a pretty tic-tac-toe goal in the 62nd minute, when a nice touch pass from the freshman came through to Heitzmann, who sent a left-footed strike from just beyond the box very high over Lawrence’s goal.
But, even after turning up the energy in the half, Maryland would wind up surrendering the first goal of the contest to the Buckeyes off the foot of Ortiz just after the 70th minute.
“They played very quick on that passage of play, it kind of showed how competitive and the quality that they did have at the moment,” Maryland midfielder/defender Nick Richardson said of Ohio State’s opening goal.
The Terps continued to apply desperate pressure and forward Justin Gielen was taken down in the box by Lawrence as both players chased after a loose ball, which drew an uproar from the Maryland bench. However, the referee didn't see a foul on the play, as the Terps once again saw another opportunity go away just as quickly as it came just before the 80th minute.
Over the final 10 minutes of the match, the Terps continued to push for an equalizer as the minutes began to melt away. However, Maryland couldn't fire anything past Lawrence as the clock expired at Ludwig Field.
“I take full responsibility for my team not being at the level that we should have been, particularly the first half,” Cirovski said. “I need to really look in the mirror tonight and take a look at some things both tactically and the mentality of how we’re approaching things and make some changes.”
Three Things to Know
1. Defender Ben Di Rosa has played his final match with the Terps. After the loss against Ohio State at Ludwig Field, Di Rosa has officially finished his career in a Maryland uniform. Di Rosa, who was drafted in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft by New York City FC, had the chance to play the first two matches for the Terps before joining NYCFC.
Di Rosa had an unforgettable career for Maryland, highlighted by being a 2018 NCAA College Cup All-Tournament Team selection when the Terps captured the 2018 national title. Di Rosa’s departure will surely have a negative impact on Maryland moving forward as a lot of the younger guys will need to step up to fill the hole he’s leaving behind on the back end.
2. Maryland’s forwards were unable to generate high quality chances. The first half saw the Terps generate very little on offense, with just one attempted shot. In the final 45 minutes, Maryland still struggled create high-scoring opportunities. Paul Bin, Eric Matzelevich and Brayan Padilla were all very quiet throughout the match. That trio will certainly need to step up in Maryland’s upcoming matches if the Terps hope to turn their season around.
“We couldn’t hold the ball, we kept giving it away, just didn’t have the quality to create good chances,” Cirovski said.
3. The Terps remain winless and it will be a major challenge to climb the standings. With now two losses in its first two games, Maryland has a long road ahead for the rest of the season. There are only eight games remaining on the regular season and the Terps will need to start winning now if they hope to make the postseason. Maryland will face Rutgers in its next game on March 3, and it will surely be a must win for Cirovski’s squad.
“We’re expecting things to come to us and we have to realize that we have to go out and take it,” Gielen said. “I think all of our games coming up are must wins, there’s not a game that we can afford to give up.”