No. 6 Maryland men's soccer team shuts out No. 2 Connecticut

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2010; 12:31 AM

The Maryland men's soccer season began just a month ago, but given the evolution of the defense, that worrisome opening match has become a distant memory.

In perhaps their finest effort of a brightening campaign, the sixth-ranked Terrapins neutralized No. 2 Connecticut's dynamic attack and defeated the previously unbeaten Huskies, 1-0, at Ludwig Field in College Park.

Freshman Patrick Mullins scored on a 12-yard header late in the first half as the Terrapins (6-2-1) registered their fifth shutout since a 4-3 overtime defeat to Michigan State in their debut.

Connecticut (7-1-2) entered the evening with a share of the nation's scoring lead, averaging 2.89 goals per match. Aside from Tony Cascio's three quality chances, however, the Huskies labored to break down a Maryland back line that has not conceded a goal at home in about 281 minutes.

"Every game, I feel our back line is getting more connected," center back Alex Lee said. "We continue to get better."

With several MLS scouts in attendance, Cascio's menacing qualities were on display early on. He embarked on a 40-yard run before stinging a low 18-yarder wide of the near corner and forced Zac MacMath into a diving save on a 25-yard effort.

Maryland, though, wasn't seriously threatened again until the closing minutes.

"There was a good level of maturity by some of our young players in certain situations," Terrapins Coach Sasho Cirovski said. "We didn't bite [on Connecticut's forays] and allowed some more players to get back and defend."

With their defense in rhythm, the Terrapins seized the lead in the 35th minute. Paul Torres drove the ball from 40 yards into the penalty area. When a Connecticut player failed to clear, the surging Mullins headed the floating ball into the right side of the net.

Afterward, his roommate, reserve defender Gordon Murie, "was making fun of me; he said it was the softest header he had ever seen, but it was just in the right spot," said Mullins, a reserve midfielder who also scored in last Friday's 2-0 victory over then-No. 9 Duke.

Nine minutes after the break, Cascio's footwork nearly produced the equalizer as he turned at the end line and nimbly split two defenders before tagging a low bid that took a deflection in a crowd shielding MacMath.

For the most part, though, the Terrapins' possession forced the Huskies to chase the game in the second half and rely on modest counterattacks. Lee and Ethan White were firm in central defense while Taylor Kemp and London Woodberry controlled the corners.

The Huskies had a wonderful opportunity to pull even in the 87th minute. Andrew Jean-Baptiste's through ball targeted Alan Ponce. MacMath bolted from the box and stabbed the ball an instant before Ponce could latch onto it. The clearance landed at the feet of Cascio, but with MacMath out of position, the forward ballooned a 30-yarder over the vacant net.

VIRGINIA 2, LIBERTY 1: In Charlottesville, Ari Dimas converted a penalty kick in the 81st minute as the No. 7 Cavaliers (7-2-1) remained unbeaten in 19 all-time meetings with the Flames (6-3-1).

Virginia had gone ahead in the fifth minute on Brian Ownby's goal off a corner kick taken by Dimas - his team-high third assist of the season. Alex Verville scored the equalizer in the 55th for Liberty.

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