Maryland 1, New Mexico 0
Nearly a dozen veterans of Maryland's decade of soccer dominance came to SAS Soccer Stadium as spectators on Sunday afternoon. Other longtime stalwarts, such as senior striker Jason Garey, were participating in their fourth College Cup.
And amid all that experience, it took two first-year Terrapins to deliver Maryland its first men's soccer championship since 1968.
The Terps' 1-0 victory over New Mexico in front of an announced crowd of 6,922 came courtesy of a first-half strike by senior transfer Marc Burch and a penalty kick save by freshman goalkeeper Chris Seitz. The victory erased the frustrating legacy of three consecutive semifinal losses. And it firmly established Maryland -- which has won more games than any Division I school over the past four years -- as the one of the nation's premier programs.
"I think we've been the best team in the nation all season and we proved that today," said Garey, who considered turning pro a year ago before deciding to return for his senior season. "I wouldn't give this up for the world. I wouldn't give this up to play for Manchester United. I don't care."
Maryland (19-4-2) had been so close so many times, suffering one-goal losses in the national semifinals four times in a seven-year span. Coach Sasho Cirovski repeatedly said that his program did not need a national title to validate its success; before the championship match, he predicted he would enjoy a victory for 48 hours and then get back to work.
"I guess I probably lied," he said Sunday, "because I'm going to feel pretty good for the next nine months."
Indeed, Cirovski was the ringleader of the postgame festivities, grabbing the trophy and telling his players to follow him as he sprinted toward hundreds of Maryland fans celebrating in the bleachers. "The first of many," Garey shouted amid the chaos.
Top-seeded Maryland (19-4-2) was the aggressor for most of Sunday afternoon, especially during a wild first half in which the Terps created nearly a dozen quality chances and had 11 shots. Second-seeded New Mexico, which was making its first appearance in an NCAA final, had just five shots at halftime.
The payoff finally came in the 31st minute when Chris Lancos, a right back who frequently joins the attack, was fouled on the right side, about seven yards outside the box. Lancos ran past the ball on the restart, and Burch drilled a low ball with his left foot. The ball ricocheted off the New Mexico wall and shot past diving keeper Mike Graczyk.
"This is exactly why I came to Maryland," said Burch, who transferred from Evansville, hurt his calf early in the season and was a reserve much of the year before emerging in the postseason. "They were good enough to get back by themselves, without me, and win a national championship. I was just happy to be part of it."
The Terps continued to press and had several chances to pad their lead before halftime, while the defensive-minded Lobos (18-2-3) -- who had trailed at halftime just once this year -- began to ratchet up their attack. Four minutes into the second half, Jeff Rowland's bicycle kick in the box struck Maryland midfielder Maurice Edu's hand, leading to the game's crucial moment.
Cirovski, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate, had spoken to his alma mater's coaches about their loss to New Mexico in penalty kicks last month, trying to learn the Lobos' tendencies.
The scouting report said New Mexico defender Andrew Boyens tended to open his body and push penalty kicks to the right, although Cirovski told Seitz to make the final decision himself.
Sure enough, Seitz saw Boyens open his body as he approached the spot, and the Maryland keeper dove to his left. He stopped the line drive, and Boyens, a veteran of New Zealand national teams, then chipped the rebound over an open net.
"You've got the weight of your team on your shoulders when you're standing there by yourself, and to miss it is horrible," Boyens said. "And to miss the second one's even worse."
Seitz, who became the first freshman keeper to win an NCAA championship game since Brad Friedel in 1990, had called Cirovski after Maryland's 2004 semifinal loss, promising to deliver a title. But he said he couldn't have imagined his promise coming true so quickly.
"Sure I dreamed it," he said, " . . . but at the same time, I live in reality."
New Mexico continued to press late in the second half, but rarely threatened. When Maryland freshman center back A.J. Delagarza -- who replaced the injured Kenney Bertz -- hurt his right ankle midway through the second half, the 6-foot-2 Burch filled in admirably on the back line. And when Seitz grabbed a loose ball in the final seconds, the celebration began.
"I still think I'm sleeping; I want someone to wake me up," senior Michael Dello-Russo said. "It's the best feeling in the world."
Box Score, E13