On senior day, Maryland men’s soccer faltered when it mattered most late in the game.
The Terps found themselves up 2-1 heading into the 86th minute of the match, but the Nittany Lions flipped the script on what was a solid performance from Maryland up until that point.
Redshirt senior midfielder Pierre Reedy was unmarked and collected a ground ball just inside the Terps’ box and he made no mistake with his opportunity. Reedy struck the ball first time with his right foot and the ball snuck past freshman goalie Jamie Lowell towards the bottom-right corner of the goal to tie the game at 2-2 to send the game to overtime.
After the equalizer, Maryland couldn’t find the winner in overtime and eventually tied with the second-place Nittany Lions, 2-2, Wednesday afternoon in College Park at Ludwig Field.
“This is the game that we wanted three points,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We played well enough to get three, we didn’t get it. Of course you have to give Penn State credit for fighting their way back into it and we’ll move on to Sunday.”
Maryland (4-3-1) has won four of its last five games heading into the conclusion of the regular season. The Terps have worked their way up to the top-4 four of the Big Ten standings after taking down Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and then producing a tie with Penn State. The program hasn’t dropped a match since its March 3 matchup with Rutgers.
Maryland has just one match remaining on its regular season schedule, as it is set to face Indiana (7-1) on the road on April 4.
Senior day started off with a bang for Maryland’s attack, and even though the day celebrated the team’s veterans, it happened to be a youngster that got the ball rolling for the Terps.
Junior forward Justin Gielen took on two defenders on the right wing in Penn State’s defensive end and sent in a beautiful right-footed cross that looped towards a wide-open freshman midfielder Ben Bender near the back post in just the second minute. Bender corralled the ball in the wet weather, taking a touch that lofted into the air and chipped off the crossbar. Fortunately for Bender, he collected his own rebound and comfortably headed home his second goal of the season to give Maryland the 1-0 lead.
The 2nd minute tally from Bender was the earliest goal scored by the Maryland men’s soccer program since 0ct. 16, 2018.
“Once [Gielen] played that ball, I knew I was going to score,” Bender said. “Even though I had a bad touch, I had a feeling that once it went into the area, it was either gonna hit off the crossbar or the keeper was gonna bobble it and then I was going to pick it back up, but I had a really good feeling that I was going to score there and that was just awesome.”
The Terps’ press forced Penn State to defend for the majority of the first 10 minutes of the match. Maryland attempted the first five shots of the game and hit three on target, with all of those shots on net coming from Bender.
Penn State quickly found its answer soon after, however, as it responded in just the 20th minute of the match. The Nittany Lions lobbed it into Maryland’s defensive third, as freshman midfielder/forward Peter Mangione brought in the ball with his feet, and then went to work inside Maryland’s penalty area. Mangione made a few cuts around the Terps’ defenders and then slotted a strike to the far-post past Lowell to make it a 1-1 game.
After both teams collected a combined four shots on target in the first 20 minutes, neither side was able to manage another shot attempt for the rest of the first 45 minutes as the overall action slowed down. The first half finished with the score knotted up at 1-1 in what was just the start of a tight matchup between two top Big Ten squads.
Maryland had a golden opportunity right out of the gates in the opening minutes of the second half to try and break through for its second lead of the match.
Bin chased a bouncing ball located towards the top of Penn State’s box, and then was taken down hard by a defender, which drew the referee’s whistle to give the Terps their first penalty of the game in the 47th minute. Bin stepped up to the box and ripped a shot towards the bottom-right part of the goal, but his attempt was blocked away by the sprawling legs of Shakes to keep the game squared at 1-1.
Despite not connecting on the penalty opportunity, Bin had another solid day for the Terps in a very important match. The active forward didn’t register any points but was constantly harassing Penn State’s back line in its defensive third with quick passes and excellent runs into dangerous areas.
Bin was streaking into the left-side of the Penn State penalty area when he was taken down hard by a Nittany Lions’ defender. The referee thought about it for a moment and then blew his whistle, signaling the Terps’ second penalty of the game with the match knotted at 1-1.
Sophomore midfielder Malcolm Johnston was awarded the task to put Maryland up in a critical match, and he calmly stepped up to the spot and smashed the penalty kick into the bottom-left corner of the goal past sophomore goalie Kris Shakes to reward Bin’s relentless offensive contributions and to put Maryland up 2-1 in a critical match.
“Paul [Bin] brings it every game,” Bender said. “His energy is so contagious and he’s a workhorse, he puts 100% effort out there every game and that’s so important for us.”
The Terps found themselves defending their lead for the remainder of the match, as Penn State desperately searched for its equalizer for the final 30 minutes.
Then, after defending well against the desperate Nittany Lions attack, Penn State broke through the Maryland defense to knot the game at 2-2, tying the game for the second time in the afternoon.
The first overtime saw Penn State exploiting Maryland’s tired defense with some decent attacking play. Mangione, who potted Penn State’s first goal of the game, found himself all alone with Lowell right in front of the Terps net with just under five minutes to go in the first overtime period. Lowell was up to the task, though, and charged out at Mangione and deflected his shot just enough to keep Maryland’s efforts alive with what was the save of the game.
Neither team connected on a game-winner through the first 10 minutes of extra time, but Penn State seemed to be the better side after a few high quality opportunities.
The rain continued to pour down on Ludwig Field as both sides trudged into the final 10 minutes of the match.
Gielen delivered another beautiful cross that went off the head of a Nittany Lion defender and the ball made its way to the feet of Brayan Padilla, who was camping near the back post of Penn State’s goal just three minutes into the second overtime period. He quickly wound up for a shot, but his attempted was deflected away as the game remained at 2-2.
Bin then had one of his most flashy attempts of the season just a few minutes later, as he attempted a scissor kick in mid-air inside Penn State’s box. He hit a good portion of the ball, but the try was blocked away by Shakes to Maryland’s disappointment.
The clock eventually expired on both teams, as the highly-anticipated match ended in a 2-2 draw.
“Obviously, we’re gutted to not get the victory out of that,” Gielen said. “I think we played well enough that we deserved it.”
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland couldn’t fully avenge its season-opening loss to Penn State. The first time Maryland faced Penn State this season, it conceded three goals in the opening 45 minutes to eventually fall 3-2 in the season-opener. This time around, the Terps had a much more structured performance, as they tied the Nittany Lions on Senior Day. Maryland out-shot Penn State en route to capturing points for the fifth straight game and was the better team for the first 90 minutes, but couldn’t get the win. At the very least, Maryland collects a point in the draw in what was a fairly strong match.
“I thought we deserved better by the the way that we played and the chances that we created,” Cirovski said. “To give up a goal that late is unacceptable, it’s something that we must improve, in closing out games.”
2. Bender continues to be a driving force for the Terps. The freshman made his impact known in the opening minutes of the match after he headed home his second goal of the season to open the scoring. He had three shots on goal in the first 20 minutes and was a force to be reckoned with for the remainder of the match. Bender has been a solid player for the Terps all season, and even though he wasn’t able to tally a goal until Maryland’s seventh match, the goals are starting to come through for the young midfielder and he’s a key guy to keep an eye out for as the Terps head into their regular season finale on Sunday.
“This guy’s confidence is building by the day,” Gielen said. “Bender has got all the talent in the world, you know we’re just watching him kind of develop and grow into his own.”
3. Despite the tie, Maryland marches on as a matchup with Indiana is waiting in the wings. The Terps have won four of its last five games dating back to March 3. Maryland is rolling through the Big Ten as of late, and its current stretch of success has been leading up to its final regular season match against Indiana. The Hoosiers are 7-1 and can easily be argued to be the most talented team in the conference. It’ll be a tough task for Maryland against Indiana on April 4, but, even with their let-down tie against Penn State, the Terps couldn’t find themselves in any better form than they are in now heading into the crucial matchup.