Terps Lose a Late Lead, Game in OT
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Sasho Cirovski called Maryland's 3-2 loss to Bradley in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 last night the most difficult in his 15 seasons as coach of the Terrapins' men's soccer team.
He had good reason.
Cirovski watched the Terrapins relinquished a two-goal lead in the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation at chilly Ludwig Field. He saw three starters leave because of injuries. And with just more than a minute left in sudden-death overtime and another penalty kick tiebreaker looming, he watched Chris Cutshaw, who had tied the match with 37 seconds to go, score a game-winning goal that Cirovski claimed should have been disallowed.
"It was a great imitation of the Hand of God goal," he said, a reference to Argentine legend Diego Maradona's infamous goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. "From my perspective, from seeing it both live and in replay, it was a clear handball. It shouldn't have been a goal."
As the Braves (16-5-4) celebrated their first trip to the quarterfinals and Cirovski stormed onto the field to confront the officiating crew, a Maryland assistant signaled to the team's cameraman to deliver the laptop computer on which the game was taped to the field.
After watching the replay, Cirovski said Cutshaw never made contact with his head, only with his forearm, when he directed Paul Tracy's feed past goalkeeper Will Swaim.
Neither the video nor any of the Maryland players were made available to reporters.
"I have no recollection," Cutshaw said when asked if the ball hit his arm. "I think what happened is, I reached and it hit my head and then hit my shoulder. It came off really weird. I had no intent on doing anything. . . . I didn't feel it hit my hand."
Despite the controversy, Maryland (10-6-5) never should have allowed the match to reach that point. The 13th-seeded Terrapins, seeking their fifth quarterfinal berth in six years, went ahead on goals by freshman Rodney Wallace and sophomore Omar Gonzalez 11 minutes apart in the first half. They could have had more during a half in which they outshot Bradley 14-2 and had all five corner kicks.
But the Braves, who upset No. 4 Indiana on Wednesday, prevented a third goal, which would have all but ended their hopes. And as the second half unfolded, the Terrapins lost their cohesion and Bradley rallied in the closing moments.
"We played a perfect first half, we played a very good second half until the last few minutes when Bradley was able to do what they do best, which is score off scrums, skirmishes and persistence," Cirovski said. "For 88 minutes, to do what you want to do and then to allow two goals in unacceptable."
Although the Braves were more effective in the second half, especially when they pushed more players into the attack, the Terrapins were not seriously threatened. But in the 88th minute, Drew DeGurian took advantage of a loose ball and cut the deficit in half.
The Terrapins did not seem troubled by the goal, but their possession game dissolved and their stalling tactics failed. Cutshaw put away another free ball in the box, forcing overtime.
Ten seconds into the extra period, the Terrapins' Spencer Allen was knocked unconscious in a collision with teammate A.J. Delagarza and, after spending several minutes on the turf, joined fellow starters Wallace (foot) and Michael Marchiano (groin) on the bench.
Bradley's Justin Bigelow hit the crossbar, goalkeeper Mike Haynes thwarted Gonzalez's short header and Maryland's Stephen King whistled a 20-yarder narrowly over the bar.
Braves Coach Jim DeRose had just turned to an assistant to prepare the shooting order for the impending shootout when Cutshaw scored again.
"I just remember seeing the ball and it got caught up in the light really quick," Cutshaw said. "And I felt something hit my head."