The path from locker-room trailer to Ludwig Field takes the Maryland men’s soccer team through a replica goal frame saluting the last championship. By Sasho Cirovski’s high standards, the 2008 tribute seems as if it were erected an eternity ago.
Maryland’s drought was further illuminated Friday by its home-opening foe, Stanford, the three-time defending champion. While the 10th-ranked Cardinal seeks to extend the first men’s dynasty since Virginia in the early 1990s, the Terrapins are aiming to reset amid the longest winless rut since Cirovski’s first season in 1993.
A 0-0 draw in front of 5,802 in College Park provided some encouragement but extended the dry spell bridging two seasons to 0-6-2. The Terrapins’ experienced defense kept its cool and the thin attack gained traction, albeit without fulfillment, as the match transpired.
“Today was a positive step in the re-identification of Maryland soccer,” Cirovski said. “I know the goals didn’t come, and that’s a part of Maryland soccer. That’s the next step, to find ways to reward ourselves for some of the good work we’re doing around the park.”
A 2-0 loser at third-ranked Washington last week, the Terrapins will continue a difficult introduction to the season by facing No. 7 Virginia on Monday night at D.C. United’s Audi Field and by welcoming No. 8 UCLA to College Park next Friday.
Stanford, which opened with a scoreless draw against San Jose State, will visit Big East favorite Georgetown on Monday afternoon. The Cardinal, which lost seven starters to various pro levels, is unbeaten in 17 straight since last September at Saint Louis.
Cirovski was most encouraged by his team’s focus and determination, saying “that’s the kind of grit and competitiveness I expect — something maybe we lacked toward the end of last year.”
Last year, the Terrapins appeared on a championship trajectory by going unbeaten in the first 13 games. But after five losses, they fell to Albany on penalty kicks, marking the third time in four years they’d failed to win an NCAA tournament game.
This year, Cirovski is filling the void left by pro-bound Gordon Wild (Charleston Battery), Eryk Williamson (Santa Clara, Portugal) and Jake Rozhansky (Maccabi Netanya, Israel). Maryland employs a solid defense but lacks individual attacking skill and menace. Several promising developments ended with bad touches in the box or near misses.
“Goals are coming,” senior forward Sebastian Elney said. “We’re waiting for them. They’ll come soon.”
Regardless of personnel, soccer is a relatively big deal at Maryland, as demonstrated Friday by the packed student sections behind the goals and university president Wallace Loh standing behind the fidgety Cirovski for almost 2 1/2 hours.
The crowd witnessed Stanford’s Logan Panchot hit the crossbar with a 25-yard free kick in the second minute, the most serious threat in the first half. In the second half, Elney crossed to D.J. Reeves for a one-timer that narrowly missed the near corner and freshman Justin Gielen missed by a whisker.
The Terrapins survived two threats in the last 30 seconds of regulation. In extra time, Elney’s sensational one-timer flashed over the crossbar and Stanford’s Amir Bashti squandered a clear chance with less than a minute left.
Stanford has “a lot of mojo, they have a lot of belief,” Cirovski said. “We took a positive step to start in getting our mojo. We didn’t get the goals we didn’t get the result but it was a positive performance and we can build on it.”
GEORGETOWN 2, RADFORD 0: Sophomore forward Derek Dodson scored in the 14th and 56th minutes, increasing his total to three, as the Hoyas (2-1-0) defeated the visiting Highlanders (0-3-0) in the Shaw Field opener. Freshman Giannis Nikopolidis made four saves in recording his second shutout.