Maryland Men's Soccer Beats Creighton in NCAA Tournament

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Maryland men's soccer team selected a fitting location to sap the final seconds from its 1-0 victory over Creighton yesterday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA men's soccer tournament.

The Terrapins pinned the ball in a corner of Ludwig Field that is framed by an entryway celebrating the 2005 national championship -- the last time they reached the final four, known as the College Cup. As snow flurries swirled and time expired on its 14th consecutive victory, Maryland celebrated a performance that contradicted the score.

Though Rodney Wallace's header midway through the first half was the only goal, the second-seeded Terrapins (21-3) had lopsided advantages in shots (17-5) and corner kicks (15-1) in ending a 15-game unbeaten streak for the seventh-seeded Bluejays (16-2-2).

Creighton Coach Bob Warming called it "probably the most we have been outplayed in any match in the last decade or longer. . . . We are a team that all year long has had the vast majority of possession in every game and today we had none."

The Terrapins, who set a program record for victories in a season, will face third-seeded St. John's in Friday's semifinals at Pizza Hut Park in suburban Dallas. North Carolina, the No. 13 seed, will play top-seeded Wake Forest in the other game.

"It feels great to be back," said Terrapins Coach Sasho Cirovski, who has overseen six trips to the College Cup in 16 seasons and five in the past seven years. "They put on a great championship performance."

The match was even for about 20 minutes before Maryland exerted relentless pressure and overwhelmed the Bluejays with energy and precision. Creighton had only one quality chance to tie in the second half as the Terrapins registered their fifth shutout in six matches and 13th overall.

Late in the game, despite having the lead, the Terrapins resisted the temptation to sit back, maintained ball possession and continued to attack confidently.

"After we settled in, I thought we were in control," Cirovski said. "We were a little unfortunate not to get a couple more goals."

Creighton created early pressure, but as the half unfolded, the Terrapins grew stronger. They began to find ample space on the flanks and between the Bluejays' midfield and backline.

In the 24th minute, Maryland's penetration drew a foul 30 yards from the net. Michael Marchiano's free kick connected with Wallace, who directed an eight-yard header into the lower left corner for his third goal of the year.

"I just went crazy" in celebrating the goal, said Wallace, a sophomore left back from Bullis School. "It's a special goal. It's taken us to Dallas."

Maryland (13-1 at home) generated two additional quality chances before the break, but Creighton goalkeeper Brian Holt made a reflex save on Jeremy Hall's header and Casey Townsend missed the far corner on a clear bid from 17 yards.

The Terrapins carried the momentum into the second half, and in an end-to-end sequence, nearly expanded the lead and then almost lost it. Holt punched out Omar Gonzalez's blistering shot, and after a scramble in the box, the Bluejays counterattacked swiftly and watched Byron Dacy's bid roll just wide of the far post.

The scare did not deter the Terrapins, who resumed pressing for another goal. Hall's diving header missed high and Graham Zusi dribbled past three defenders for a clear attempt in the box that was tipped high.

Last week, Creighton scored a late equalizer against Connecticut and then won in overtime, 2-1, but its hopes of replicating that feat grew dim yesterday. The Terrapins repelled sporadic forays and nearly clinched it in the 77th minute when Gonzalez's header struck the crossbar.

"The way the game panned out, we were able to keep on attacking," said Zusi, one of four regulars remaining from the 2005 championship squad. "You could see everyone getting back and everyone played their roles perfectly."

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