In a match where Maryland men’s soccer desperately needed a win to turn its season around, it was finally able to take its first lead of the 2021 campaign.
Freshman forward Jacen Russell-Rowe collected a loose ball that was bouncing just outside of the Wisconsin box and made no mistake with his quality opportunity. The Brampton, Ontario, native took one touch forward and fired off a beautifully hit strike with his left-foot that found its way into the top-left corner of the goal past Wisconsin’s goalkeeper to give Maryland a 1-0 lead in the 63rd minute.
You could hear a collective sigh of relief from the Terps’ side, as they managed to score the opening goal for the first time this season.
Russell-Rowe’s second goal of the season proved critical, as Maryland eventually held onto its lead and took the Badgers down for its first win of the season in a tight 1-0 match, Sunday afternoon in College Park.
“Finally,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said after the game. “I’m really happy for the guys, it was a great performance today, it was more of a Maryland performance that I expect, that we played the game at a high intensity level.”
Right from the get-go, the urgency from the Terps’ side was apparent, but it couldn’t find a way to strike first on the scoreboard.
Maryland had an early chance in the seventh minute with some crisp passing between a trio of Terps. Russell-Rowe flicked a pass a few feet ahead of the midfield line toward redshirt senior Mike Heitzmann, who beautifully led redshirt senior forward Paul Bin near the right edge of Wisconsin’s box with a through ball. Bin collected the pass and took a hit with his right foot, but the ball sailed over graduate student goalie Sven Kleinhans’ cage as the game remained scoreless.
The Terps continued to put early pressure on Wisconsin as they hunted for their first goal since their first match of the season against Penn State on Feb. 19.
Heitzmann was taken down on a left-footed shot just beyond the box, which afforded Nick Richardson a dangerous free kick opportunity in the 12th minute. Unfortunately for Maryland, Richardson put too much leg on the ball and it flew well over the Badgers’ net.
Maryland was able to control the majority of the possession in the first half, but couldn’t seem to put the finishing touch on any of its scoring chances as it remained adamant on taking its first lead of the year.
Sophomore midfielder Malcolm Johnston found some space in deep just outside of Wisconsin’s box in the 34th minute and lofted in a soft left-footed cross to Bin. However, another chance would go to waste for the Terps as the ball deflected off of Bin’s head and soared over the net once again as the game remained tied at 0-0.
In the late stages of the first half, junior forward/midfielder Brayan Padilla corralled a throw-in on the right side of the field in Wisconsin’s end and showed off his own offensive abilities, as he managed to get the first shot on target for the Terps. He side-stepped a Badger and released a low, left-footed strike from just beyond the box that made its to bottom-left corner of the goal, but the shot was redirected away by Kleinhans in the 41st minute.
Maryland’s first half energy certainly wasn’t lacking as it generated five shot attempts, but its inability to finish kept the door open for Wisconsin as both teams headed into the break scoreless with just two shots on goal combined after the first 45 minutes.
The second half saw Maryland continue its offensive push with fast-paced play.
A Terps’ corner in the opening minutes of the half was whipped in by Richardson and eventually found its way to Russell-Rowe, who put forth a strong header which needed a strong deflection from Kleinhans to keep it out of the top right corner of the net in the 46th minute.
Wisconsin’s defensive scheme stifled Maryland’s offense for a prolonged period of time until the 63rd minute when Russell-Rowe smacked home his second tally of the season, which ultimately proved to be the deciding goal of the game.
“I’ve just come here to show that I’m a goal scorer like that’s me by nature and as a striker, that’s my job,” Russell-Rowe said. “So with Eric [Matzelevich] out, I want to be able to provide for the team as much as I can. That’s my job, just to score.”
The Badgers tried to find an equalizer in the remaining 27 minutes, but the Terps’ defense did everything it could to thwart the comeback opportunity. Wisconsin managed just one shot attempt in the second half, with just two tries hitting the net all game.
The Terps parked the bus on the defensive end the rest of the way until the clock eventually expired on Wisconsin as Maryland saw its first win of the 2021 campaign.
“We wanted to just go from the start and not remember any of the other games,” junior defender Brett St. Martin said. “And you can see that performance was so much better with pressing, defensive wise, and a great goal that Jacen, you could see the team was just really excited to be out there and the energy was really high.”
Three Things to Know
1. Sophomore goalie Niklas Neumann had a quiet return to the pitch for Maryland. After being ineligible to play in the first three matches of the season for the Terps after competing in Germany, Neumann had a fairly easy day back in net. The sophomore, who was named to the 2019 All-Big Ten Second Team, faced just two shot attempts and made two saves. His success in goal will be critical for the Terps moving forward.
2. The offensive struggles continue for the Terps. Despite producing the majority of the chances in the match, Maryland’s offense managed just one goal on the afternoon in the win. The Terps have scored just three times in four matches. If Maryland hopes to turn its season around, the offense needs to come through with more tallies sooner rather than later.
“We would like to be a little more threatening in the final third,” Cirovski said.
3. With the win against Wisconsin, Maryland begins its effort to climb the Big Ten standings. To say the win against the Badgers is big for the Terps is an understatement. Maryland collects its first points of the season after taking down Wisconsin at home in its fourth match. The Terps desperately needed something to jump start their season, as they face Michigan (2-0) in their next match of the season.
“Very happy for the win, it’s a step in the right direction,” Cirovski said. “And, you know, we’re getting a little healthier, and we’re getting a little stronger and think we’re getting better.”