(This article is written and submitted by my UMD senior son Jesse Buchman – soccer analyst and son extraordinaire!)
Sporting their playoff beards on a bitterly cold night in Philadelphia, the Maryland Terrapin’s soccer team stayed hot with a 2-1 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in the College Cup semi -final. The Terrapins entered the season in search of redemption after a heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Georgetown in the same game last year. Patrick Mullins, the likely first pick in the upcoming Major League Soccer draft, played great touches all night, but two of them in particular proved to be the difference in the match.
The key to victory for Maryland was to come out sharp and win the game through counter attacks in transition. The Terps did exactly that in the 11th minute when Patrick Mullins ran onto a magnificently played ball over the defense, and on his first touch, lobbed the ball over the charging goalie using the outside of his left foot.
The rest of the first half was rather uneventful, and I began planning my trip to the championship game on Sunday. However, the intensity would increase in the second half, and I feared I would be forced to spend my Sunday studying for final exams instead of watching soccer!
The Virginia Cavaliers are known to be a strong second half team, and the Terps did not enter the second half of the contest with the same sharpness as they did the first half. In the opening minutes, Patrick Mullins struck another ball with the outside of his foot, narrowly sailing it over the crossbar. The Cavaliers’ standout freshman, Darius Madison responded with a sizzling shot which deflected off the goalie and hit the near post.
In the 64th minute Madison made Terps fans even more anxious. Narrowly treading the end line, Madison beat three Terps and took a shot at goal from an almost impossible angle. If Madison could have that shot back, he would have chosen to play the ball across the face of the goal to his teammates who were crashing the far post. In this case, the inexperienced freshman striker proved to be fortuitous for the Terps.
In the 76th minute, Tsubasa Endoh lobbed an incredible pass over the defense to a charging Mullins. Mullins positioned himself between the defender and the ball and connected on his 18th goal of the season with hard, low drive to the right corner of the net. With Maryland safely up 2-0, I again began making my championship plans.
However, a two-goal lead is the most dangerous in soccer. The Cavaliers quickly responded when the Cavaliers’ Todd Wharton scored a penalty kick following a collision in the penalty box between Terps’ Dan Metzger and the Cavalier’s Marcus Salandy-Defour. With the score now at 2-1, the Terps withdrew into a defensive formation as the Cavaliers pushed more players forward to attack.
Virginia’s best opportunity (and arguably the best play of the game) came in the 87th minute when a Cavalier player struck a ball from just inside the 18 yard box destined for the lower left corner of the goal. Zack Steffen, a freshman goalkeeper who has improved immensely over the course of the season, dove quickly to his right and emphatically denied the potential equalizer. As the minutes became seconds (but felt like hours) and the clock at PPL Park in Philadelphia reached 0:00, the euphoria of the Maryland Terrapins’ victory replaced the disappointment of the previous year’s defeat.
The championship match for the College Cup will be held on Sunday at 3pm at PPL Park in Philadelphia. Ironically, the Maryland Terrapins, who are exiting the Atlantic Coast Conference, will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a school which will be entering the Atlantic Coast Conference. Tune into ESPNU on Sunday or join me in Philadelphia as I cheer on my Maryland Terrapins!