By Jon Brand
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Clad in commemorative red and black scarves celebrating last year's NCAA title, the Maryland student section looked more like supporters of an English Premier League team than a rowdy group of undergrads.
But the anti-UCLA taunts were unmistakably American.
Though they, and the rest of the record-setting 6,718 packed into Ludwig Field on Friday night, did their best to spur on their side, No. 8 Maryland succumbed to a late UCLA rally and dropped the season opener, 2-0.
The loss broke a 16-game winning streak, which stretched back to a 5-3 loss at Clemson last October.
Though the Terps started nine underclassmen and a new back line, they more than held their own against No. 9 UCLA for 75 minutes.
Maryland dominated time of possession and shots in the first half, peppering UCLA senior keeper Brian Perk with 14 shots. But despite quality chances from sophomore forward Casey Townsend, an all-ACC selection as a freshman, and senior midfielder Drew Yates, the Terps couldn't convert.
"We had a great first half and I thought we should be up two or three goals," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. It's a bittersweet feeling, knowing that we left points on the table."
Their new defensive corps withstood the few Bruins chances in the first half, too, with freshmen Taylor Kemp and Ethan White, a D.C. United youth academy product, pushing up and attacking at times.
"I felt like we were gelling and were connected and comfortable," fifth-year senior defender Kevin Tangney, a co-captain. "We were secure and I thought we sorted the situations out well."
The second half brought more of the same intensity, but the same offensive frustration.
"I've been working on the back line so much, I thought we lacked precision in the attack," Cirovski said.
Townsend had a chance just seven minutes in, corralling the ball in the box, but he put a blast off target. And in the 63rd minute, Yates fed an open Townsend on a through ball but Perk, who finished with 10 saves, and the UCLA defense tightened up again.
"We needed to stay more composed, we had our chances and couldn't finished our opportunities," Townsend said.
Led by a stout defense, the Bruins opened up things on the offensive end and started to slip past the Maryland back line. A corner service from UCLA senior midfielder Michael Stephens in the 76th minute fell in the box, bounced up, and was nodded toward net by senior defender Sean Alvarado. Though the shot was seemingly cleared off the line by Terps midfielder Kaoru Forbes, the referee ruled it a goal.
Six minutes later, UCLA struck again as senior forward David Estrada got through the Maryland defense on a break and put a shot on sophomore keeper Zack MacMath, who finished with one save. MacMath saved it, but the ball trickled to freshman midfielder Ryan Hollingsworth, who calmly put it in the net.
"I thought we lacked energy in the second half and gave up some preventable goals," Cirovski said. "UCLA is an experienced side, but this was a game for the taking."
His troops will take that confidence into Sunday's home game against No. 7 California, which handed the Terps their first loss of last season. But like they've put the '08 championship behind them, they aren't dwelling on that result either.
"It's a new team, a new year," Townsend said. "We're not thinking about last year at all.