With its Big Ten tournament hopes on the line, Maryland men’s soccer redshirt senior forward Mike Heitzmann had a chance to send the Terps to the semifinals.
He calmly stepped up to the spot in his final game at Ludwig Field and eventually smashed home the ball into the right side of the goal past sophomore goalkeeper Oren Asher to give Maryland the 5-4 advantage in the penalty shootout, which pushed the Terps into the next round of the tournament.
Heitzmann immediately stripped off his black Maryland uniform and waved it around frantically in celebration, as the rest of the Terps mobbed him with joy.
The final goal from Heitzmann in the penalty shootout was the most crucial moment of the match, as it capped off Maryland’s 1-1 (5-4) win against Rutgers Saturday afternoon in College Park to help the Terps advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
“First of all, I’m incredibly proud of our team in, No. 1 playing a great game and, No. 2 coming back late in the game to tie it on a great goal, and then having the resilience and toughness to go into PKs and bringing it home,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said.
After taking down Rutgers, Maryland will take on the winner of No. 1-seed Indiana and No. 8-seed Northwestern. That match is set to take place tonight at 7 p.m. in Bloomington, Indiana, and will be aired on Big Ten Network.
The match started slowly for both sides, but Maryland controlled the early portions of possession as it tried to push into Rutgers’ attacking third in the first 10 minutes of the match.
The wet conditions on a cloudy day at Ludwig Field brought forth a tough challenge for either team to operate in dangerous areas. And as a result, Maryland wasn’t able to generate any kind of shot until the 14th minute, as freshman midfielder Ben Bender’s attempt skewed off a Scarlet Knights’ defender wide of the net.
Maryland continued its usual offensive press into Rutgers’ end in the 20th minute, but Rutgers had the first few quality chances of the match.
Freshman forward Moussa Sabaly of the Scarlet Knights took a through ball into the Terps’ defensive area just outside of the box and wound up for a strike with his right foot, but a diving effort from sophomore midfielder/defender Nick Richardson stopped the opportunity with a diving block in the 22nd minute. Just a few minutes later, the Scarlet Knights worked their way into Maryland’s box near the goal line but freshman goalie Jamie Lowell was there to intercept a cross-goal pass to keep the game scoreless.
The Terps weren’t fortunate enough to create any strong opportunities in the Rutgers’ defensive third for the remainder of the first half as they tallied five shot attempts, but just one of those shots hit the target through the first 45 minutes. Rutgers, by comparison, had just two shot attempts with one on net as both teams remained scoreless when the referee signaled for the break after the quiet half.
The second half saw a more desperate effort from Maryland on the offensive end as it looked to advance to the conference semifinals.
Senior forward Eric Matzelevich took the ball off an Alex Nitzl throw-in in and ripped a strike with his right foot just beyond the Scarlet Knights’ box in the 51st minute. The ball sailed towards sophomore goalkeeper Oren Asher and the top-right part of the goal, but the net-minder punched it away to keep the game knotted at 0-0.
Rutgers couldn’t seem to get out of its own end in the second half, and junior forward Justin Gielen kept Maryland’s momentum going in the 63rd minute when he took a through ball from Matzelevich into Rutgers’ defensive third on the right side. The streaking Gielen poked the ball forward and managed to get a shot on target from a tough angle, but Asher deflected the attempt away from the Scarlet Knights’ goal.
After tallying just one shot on goal in the first 45 minutes, Maryland had three strong shot attempts that landed on target in the first 20 minutes of the second half. The Terps’ press clearly forced Rutgers to stay back in its own end for the most part, as it didn’t register a shot in the second half until the 68th minute.
However, Rutgers broke through first after both teams were deadlocked at 0-0.
Sabaly was streaking on the right side of Maryland’s defensive third just outside the box and he delivered a beautiful ball into the center of the penalty area. The cross eventually found the feet of a wide open freshman forward Ola Maeland, who boldly scissor-kicked a strike into the bottom-right part of the goal past freshman goalie Jamie Lowell to break the tie to put Rutgers ahead 1-0 in the 74th minute.
Even though Maryland’s chances looked slim, the Terps quickly responded on the scoreboard after pressing for the majority of the second half.
Gielen collected the ball just outside the Rutgers’ penalty area beyond the box in the 82nd minute and hammered home one of Maryland’s best goals of the season. He looked toward goal and finessed in a wonderful strike off his right foot, which found its way into the bottom-right part of the goal past Asher to even the match at 1-1.
“It was crazy,” Lowell said of Gielen’s late goal. “I saw it curling, goalie dived, honestly I thought he might get to it, but then I saw the curve of the ball and I kind of knew it was in, and I couldn’t help but just scream, I was just screaming my head off.”
The equalizer from the Terps would eventually be enough to push the game to overtime after a full 90 minutes as both teams looked to out-last the other in the tight match.
Both teams played somewhat conservatively in the first overtime period, as Maryland attempted three shots and Rutgers didn’t have any. Padilla had the strongest chance of the opportunity of the 10 minute frame, as he flicked on a strike right in front of the Scarlet Knights’ goal, but Asher came up big with a save to keep the game alive heading into the second overtime.
“As soon as they scored I saw the guys, the energy really picked up and the urgency picked up and, you know, you knew we’re gonna get some chances,” Cirovski said.
Rutgers generated a few solid opportunities in the late portions of the second overtime period, but Lowell once again came up with strong saves from close range. The freshman goalkeeper was one of the best players on the pitch for the Terps, and he finished with four saves.
After all was said and done, 110 minutes were not enough for either side to find a game-winner, and the match headed to a highly-anticipated penalty shootout to decide which team would move on.
“Obviously it’s a stressful situation on the PK spot,” Lowell said. “To be honest, I know as soon as the second overtime whistle rang I really didn’t feel that stress today, because I believe in the guys that we have taking the kicks, I believe in all the guys in the team, and I knew I just need to make one or two saves.”
Senior forward Ritchie Barry buried the first goal of the shootout for Rutgers, and then Bender sunk his attempt soon after for Maryland. Sabaly shot next for the Scarlet Knights, and he clipped the left-post as the Terps had a chance to take the lead in the penalty shootout. Sophomore midfielder Malcolm Johnston put Maryland ahead after striking home his penalty shot into the bottom right corner.
Rutgers tied it up in the third round, then junior defender Brett St. Martin skied his attempt for the Terps to even up the shootout totals heading into the fourth round.
After both teams scored in the fourth and fifth round, Lowell made a diving save in the sixth round, which gave Heitzmann the chance to close out the match to put Maryland through to the next round. The redshirt senior buried his attempt past Asher as the Terps officially advanced past the Scarlet Knights.
“I’ve been kind of waiting for that moment because I missed one in the Big Ten Semifinal against Indiana 2018,” Heitzmann said. “So, I’ve always like had that in the back of my mind and I knew I wasn’t gonna miss, just knew it, needed a little redemption.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland was able to get the job without redshirt senior forward Paul Bin. The Terps were without a few key players coming into this match, but the missing presence of Bin definitely had the biggest negative impact for Maryland. Bin, who came into this match leading the Terps in goals with three, is out for the season with an injury and the Terps’ offensive execution suffered as a result against Rutgers, despite the win. Maryland had just one shot on target through the first 45 minutes, and finished with six shots on net when the final whistle sounded. Even with the absence of Bin, Maryland still advanced.
2. The Scarlet Knights and the Terps played a very physical match. The wet conditions at Ludwig Field made for a fairly sloppy game that saw a large amount of fouls between both sides. In the first half alone, Rutgers committed eight fouls, while Maryland had six fouls after the opening 45 minutes. The second half saw an even greater amount of physicality, as both sides finished with double-digit fouls. The match finished with a total of 31 fouls.
3. Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski was sent off with a red card. The Terps’ head coach was irate in the 100th minute of the match, after Padilla’s quality chance right in front of the Scarlet Knights goal. It should be assumed that Cirovski thought that there should have been a penalty given, and he had some words for the referee. He was given a yellow card, and then kept sharing his opinions with the official, which then led to a second yellow and a subsequent red card. Even with the absence of its coach, Maryland forced the penalty shootout, where it ultimately prevailed.
Cirovski declined to comment on the incident post-match.