Terrapins Advance to Quarterfinals in Men's Soccer
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The Maryland men's soccer team was watching another round-of-16 home match in the NCAA tournament slip from its grasp: A two-goal lead had been slashed in half by Cal yesterday, and the thought of conceding a late equalizer for the second consecutive autumn gripped the Terrapins and their 2,531 supporters at Ludwig Field.
This time, however, the shot by the ambitious visitors skidded fractionally wide, overtime was averted and Maryland secured both a 2-1 victory and a quarterfinal berth after a three-year absence.
On the strength of goals by Omar Gonzalez in the 19th minute and Jeremy Hall early in the second half, the second-seeded Terrapins (20-3) won their 13th straight and tied a program record for wins in a season. They will host seventh-seeded Creighton (16-1-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday and attempt to reach the final four for the fifth time in seven years.
"It feels good to get past this one," said Coach Sasho Cirovski, whose team yielded two goals in the last 2 1/2 minutes of regulation last year and was upset by Bradley, 3-2, in overtime. "You saw a team that has matured, that is hungry and found a way to win this game. . . . We had a little bit of fortune at the end."
Seldom a threat, the Bears (12-4-5) pulled within a goal on Andrew Wiedeman's header with about 22 minutes left. Wiedeman had a golden chance two minutes later, but Maryland goalkeeper Zac MacMath made an excellent foot save. Then in the 89th minute, after a Maryland giveaway in the penalty area, Terrapins defender Rich Costanzo applied just enough pressure on Cal's Pat Marion to force a miss from 12 yards.
To that point, the comparisons to last year's collapse were eerily similar.
"I wasn't really thinking about it before the game, but before we got [to the field], I was remembering Bradley," said Hall, a junior midfielder with a team-high 14 goals. "That was a terrible loss. I just told myself, 'We are going to get past this round.' "
Added Cirovski: "We didn't talk about [the Bradley game] all week, but I have referenced Bradley quite a bit last winter and spring and summer. . . . This was a nice breakthrough for this group of players."
The victory also avenged a 1-0 loss to the Bears at a neutral site in the second game of the season, the only time Maryland has been shut out.
The Terrapins threatened twice before Gonzalez, a 6-foot-5 junior defender, headed in Graham Zusi's corner kick for his fifth goal. In the 53rd minute, Hall expanded the lead with a shot from distance that deflected off a defender and left goalie Stefan Frei without a chance.
Maryland's Jason Herrick could've put the game out of reach nine minutes later, but Frei made a sensational diving save.
"You could just sense the momentum swing there," Cirovski said. "They had just been thrown a lifeline by their goalkeeper. You knew they were going to get a couple more chances."
Wiedeman's goal ended Maryland's shutout streak at 493 minutes and intensified the anxiety, but MacMath's save and Marion's miss disrupted Cal's comeback bid.
"The urgency to get numbers forward seemed to be something that we wanted the entire game but only appeared after we went down 2-0," Cal Coach Kevin Grimes said. "It was one of those days where it was not only one goal that took us to wake up, it took two goals for us to wake up."
Maryland has yielded just six goals during the winning streak, but yesterday's scare will not be forgotten.
Said Cirovski: "The events of the last 20 minutes will keep us humble."