Nick Richardson had plenty of time. With Maryland men’s soccer trailing 2-1 late in the game, the redshirt freshman controlled the ball deep in his own half. With no defender immediately on his back, Richardson simply had to play a backpass to goalkeeper Russell Shealy. However, the two weren’t on the same page and as Richardson played a pass, Shealy retreated.
Northwestern forward Ty Seager jumped on the moment of uncertainty, running onto Richardson’s pass and chipping the ball over Shealy’s outstretched leg.
It was the third preventable Northwestern goal on the day. Although Maryland dominated possession and looked certain to find the back of the net on multiple occasions, they were left to rue defensive mistakes, and fell 3-1 to Northwestern at Ludwig Field.
“Full credit to Northwestern tonight,” coach Sasho Cirovski. “They came here and put in a great shift. They played a style that was very effective.”
On long rest, and coming off back-to-back victories, Maryland seemed primed for a successful evening against Northwestern. But its usual intensity was lacking, as Maryland fell victim to numerous defensive mistakes. And despite a spirited second half effort, the Terps were second best on Friday.
For the first few games of the season, Maryland was plagued by injuries. William James Hervé went down minutes into the season opener. Luke Brown missed two matches after a leg injury sustained against Virginia. And, more recently, Eli Crognale limped off with various wear and tear.
But for the first time all season, Cirovski had a full roster at his disposal. He used it, shuffling the lineup— Marques Antoine earned his first career start at center back; David Kovacic slid in for Crognale, giving the senior a necessary rest, and Hervé returned to the fray.
For all the changes, it was Northwestern who struck first. The Wildcats hit Maryland on a swift counter attack, sweeping down the left wing before finding Bardia Kimiavi wide open for a tap in at the far post. After less than four minutes, the visitors had the lead.
“I was very disappointed with the way we started the game,” Cirovski said. “There was no indication we were going to start like that based on the preparation of the last few days.”
Maryland struggled to get a foothold in the game for the rest of the half. Led by imposing midfielders Richie Bennett and Mac Mazzola, Northwestern consistently prevented Maryland from feeding Luke Brown in the No. 10 role. Forced to use the wings, the Terps weren’t able to generate many looks on goal.
On the few occasions when Maryland was able to carve out space in the middle of the pitch, the opportunities flowed. Brown came the closest, with his whipped free kick being cleared off the line by an opportunistic Northwestern defender.
Meanwhile, the Terps held Northwestern defensively — the Wildcats didn’t muster any clear looks for the rest of the half. Still, with nothing going forward, Maryland went into halftime trailing 1-0.
“Everything from when we won the ball to the way we fought for second balls,” Cirovski said. “We were second best.”
Maryland started the second half with a renewed intent. Full backs Matt Di Rosa and Ben Di Rosa pressed high, pinning back Northwestern’s wingers. Meanwhile, Padilla and Brown found pockets of space in between the midfield and defensive lines to create opportunities. It was that combination that eventually got Maryland back into the game.
Brown found space in the middle of the field and fed a ball into Padilla’s path. The sophomore evaded two defenders before smoothly curving a shot into the bottom corner with the outside of his foot.
“It was a great ball by Luke,” Padilla said. “I just saw the chance to shoot and I went for it.”
With 33 minutes to win it, Maryland constantly applied pressure. Both Padilla and Brown had shots from outside the box, making a go-ahead goal appear imminent.
But Northwestern made sure the Terps would be playing from behind. During the Wildcats’ first attack of the half, Matt Moderwell floated a cross into the box with no fellow teammates waiting. His lofted pass kept floating in the moist Maryland air, making its way over Russell Shealy’s head and into the back of the net.
“Today, for whatever reason we didn’t have that normal connection on the field,” Cirovski said. “That normal energy.
Cirovski deployed an incredibly attacking lineup in search of an equalizer. Maryland poured numbers into Northwestern’s half, leaving only St. Martin and Bergmann back to defend. And the opportunities followed.
However, Richardson and Shealy’s miscommunication with a few minutes remaining proved to be an insurmountable deficit. Despite a spirited second half performance, Maryland was left to rue mistakes and missed opportunities in a disappointing night at Ludwig Field.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Matt Di Rosa said. “We just threw it away in the end.”