As 10th-ranked Maryland approaches the final stretch of the regular season, Coach Sasho Cirovski is tinkering with his lineup, hoping to find the best combinations before postseason play begins in a month.
Yesterday Cirovski moved senior Jason Cropley from his usual position, forward, to right midfield. Cropley responded by setting up Maryland's first goal in a 3-1 victory over depleted George Mason in Fairfax.
"Jason was our best player today," Cirovski said. "He has spent most of the season with his back to the goal getting fouled, so it was good for him to get wide. It freed him up a little. He played a very mature game today."
Maryland (9-3) tested the Patriots' defense from the opening kickoff and broke through in the eighth minute. Cropley lofted a cross to the far corner of the six-yard box, where sophomore forward Taylor Twellman beat George Mason goalkeeper James Teixeira with a header.
"I don't mind playing wide," Cropley said. "My biggest strength is my speed, so I like to run at people one-on-one. This gave me a chance to do that."
George Mason (4-9-1), which has lost three starters--two of them captains--for the season because of medical reasons, has lost seven consecutive games. Prior to yesterday's game, they had been outscored 19-0 dating from Sept. 22. When Maryland went ahead 2-0 in the 32nd minute, it was the 21st goal the Patriots had allowed without scoring one.
They finally ended that streak in the 39th minute, when senior Chris Villamil worked a give-and-go with freshman Laszlo Juhasz and tucked a breakaway shot behind Maryland's number two goalkeeper, sophomore Kevin Schmidt. (Starter Christian Lewis sat out because of a bulging disk in his lower back.)
However, Maryland sophomore Nouf Tajini dealt the Patriots a crushing blow when he pushed the rebound of Twellman's shot into an open net just 20 seconds before halftime.
George Mason senior captain Eduardo Lima, the team's top scorer each of the past three seasons, recently decided to redshirt this season after undergoing corrective heart surgery Aug. 24. Junior defender Rob Klug, another team captain, redshirted after reinjuring a dislocated elbow Sept. 29.
"We can't put the team we want on the field, but the good thing about this season is that we have some freshmen coming through for us," George Mason Coach Gordon Bradley said. "Frustration has set in, but we have to push through it."