It came from the most unlikely of sources. A pivot, a quick swing of the boot, no real time for placement. Yet Matt Di Rosa wheeled away, arms spread wide, as the ball flew into the bottom corner.
It was an unexpected way for Maryland men’s soccer to beat Indiana for the first time in five tries. But Di Rosa’s strike was an oddly perfect ending to a season of blows traded between two of the best programs in the nation. That rivalry picks up again Friday night, with both teams constantly aware of games past, while also wanting to assert Big Ten dominance in the present.
“It’s always a great game,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “One of the games of the year.”
Prior to Maryland’s introduction into the Big Ten, the two squads had squared up five times. The Terps went winless, their closest result a 1-1 overtime draw in 2007. But every game was tight, with the most recent four needing extra minutes to reach a final score.
When Maryland made the jump to the Big Ten in 2014, the rivalry only intensified. In 2014, Cirovski’s squad snatched a 2-1 win in Bloomington during the regular season — his first career victory against the Hoosiers. And a month later, in mid November, Maryland sealed a Big Ten Tournament championship on home soil, with Mael Corboz curling in a dramatic free kick to seal the match.
On that chilly November day, 2200 fans made their way to Ludwig as the Terps hoisted the Big Ten Tournament trophy. A year later, when Indiana visited for the first time in the Big Ten regular season, 5051 packed the Ludwig seats. They were treated to a 0-0 stalemate after two overtime periods.
“Since we’ve been in the Big Ten, the rivalry’s just ramped up,” Cirovski said.
Still, the sheer volume of spectators was an indication of how big the rivalry had become. It’s only grown from there, with 6981 showing up in 2017, the last time Maryland hosted Indiana.
“The Crew last game against Georgetown was phenomenal,” Eric Matzelevich said. “Always you have a home field advantage.”
And the magnitude of the matchup is something Maryland’s players are very much aware of today — especially going into Friday’s game. The Hoosiers enter Friday 8-1-3 on the season. Despite losing 10 starters — including MAC Hermann Trophy winner Andrew Gutman — they look primed to make a third consecutive College Cup appearance.
It appears that the Terps come into the game firmly implemented in the underdog role. But home field advantage could have a massive impact. The Hoosiers have only won once in College Park in their last five trips. Maryland, then, will look to the influence of Ludwig Field, a vice that Indiana has struggled to grapple with.
“It’s always gonna be a close game,” Nick Richardson said. “They’re gonna bring 110% effort. I expect us to bring equal effort.”
Maryland’s 2018 College Cup winning team went through a cold spell before a big win ignited a fiery run deep into November. That year, it was a mid-October win against No. 7 Denver. This year, the Terps will need a mid-October win against No. 6 Indiana. They hope history can repeat itself.
“It’s definitely a game we want to win,” Matzelevich said. “We’re fighting for it a little bit more.”