Terps Edge Visiting Tar Heels in Title Game Rematch

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 26, 2009

The largest crowd to attend a Maryland men's soccer game at cozy Ludwig Field, a rectangle of rowdy students and red-clad supporters, watched goalkeeper Zac MacMath rescue the Terrapins with two classy saves. It saw Maryland create only occasional opportunities and North Carolina botch a penalty kick.

And just when it appeared the 2008 NCAA tournament finalists were headed for overtime Friday night, the near-capacity audience of 6,946 witnessed senior co-captain Kevin Tangney score on a header with 1 minute 55 seconds remaining to lift the eighth-ranked Terrapins to a 1-0 victory over the No. 2 Tar Heels.

MacMath began the decisive sequence with a long free kick into North Carolina's penalty area. Attempting to clear the ball from danger, a Tar Heels player headed it back toward the net. Tangney, a 6-foot-2 central defender, nodded an eight-yarder past leaping goalie Brooks Haggerty for his second goal of the year.

Initially, Tangney didn't intend to go forward on MacMath's delivery.

"He was just waiting there and looked tired," MacMath said. "I was like, 'You know, let's go for it.' "

As the ball floated toward him, Tangney said, "Your eyes get real big and you just try to go attack it."

The fact that, in a matchup of national titans in front of a big crowd, the goal was scored by a player that missed the 2006 and '07 seasons with two serious knee injuries and almost had to quit the sport wasn't lost on Terrapins Coach Sasho Cirovski.

"That was one of the best moments in my 17 years [at Maryland], not because we won the game against a great opponent but in the player who found a way to get the game-winning goal after all he has been through," Cirovski said. "You got a gulp in your throat. When he put that ball in the back of the net, you knew there was something of a gift back."

Defending champion Maryland (5-1-1, 2-0-1 ACC) extended its unbeaten streak against the Tar Heels (5-1-1, 2-1) to nine.

By midway through the first half, the match was buzzing with attacking prospects. But Maryland lost much of its menace when all-American candidate Casey Townsend aggravated an ankle injury in the 25th minute and didn't return. "He covers so much ground and is such a threat," Cirovski said, "we became a little more predictable."

North Carolina's speed and movement created persistent problems for the Terrapins. Billy Schuler latched onto Alex Dixon's pass over the top of Maryland's backline but his shot in tight space was blocked by MacMath.

Townsend's replacement, Billy Cortes, stung a header that Cameron Brown cleared off the goal line and MacMath made a spectacular reflex save on Schuler.

Six minutes after halftime, the Tar Heels seemed set to break the deadlock when Schuler was upended by Tangney in the box. On the penalty kick, however, Schuler missed badly to the right -- the second time in a week that a Maryland opponent botched such an attempt. Last Saturday, North Carolina State hit the post with less than two minutes left in sudden-death overtime of a 1-1 tie.

The Terps threatened in the 88th minute, but a clever combination involving Cortes, Jason Herrick and Taylor Kemp faltered deep in the box. A minute later, Tangney decided it.

"I try not to get too caught up in because there is always the next game," he said, "but to get a goal like that against UNC on TV [Fox Soccer Channel] and just the whole atmosphere in general, is really rewarding for myself and the fans as well because they showed up in great numbers."

Soccer Notes: The previous Ludwig attendance record was 6,718 for UCLA's visit three weeks ago. . . . On Tuesday, the Terrapins will visit George Mason, a team they ousted in the NCAA tournament last year.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company