It took Fola Adetola three years to see the pitch in a Maryland jersey. First, a leg injury. Then, the trials and tribulations of being a winger among a Maryland men’s soccer squad stacked at his position. With Paul Bin and William James Hervé higher in the pecking order than Adetola, it looked like he might not ever see the pitch at all.
But when Bin tore his ACL in preseason, and Hervé pulled a muscle in his leg, Adetola’s prospects of playing time seemed brighter. He got a few minutes against Virginia, and then 32 against Akron. Then, on Wednesday night, Adetola posted another 32 as the Terps hosted Rutgers. And he seized his moment.
With the Terps heavily rotating their squad and thin on options, Adetola made the most of his limited playing time, constantly wreaking havoc on the wing and providing a crucial assist for Maryland’s go-ahead goal.
“He’s been patient. He’s a great teammate,” Cirovski said. “He came in today, was asked to do a job. He did a great job.”
Adetola first saw action in the first half, providing a brief respite for Eric Matzelevich and operating on the right wing. While he didn’t see much of the ball in his five minutes before the half time whistle, Adetola was a constant menace, making runs down the wing and providing an option for the center midfielders. He also showed an ability to drop in and link up with the midfield, a crucial trait in dragging defenders out of position.
With Matzelevich fresh to start the second half, Adetola moved back to the bench. And after the big No. 9 scored his third goal of the season, it seemed as though Adetola’s night might be over. However, Rutgers equalized, forcing Cirovski into a more attacking mindset.
And as he looked down the Maryland bench, his first substitution was Adetola. It was a game-changing decision, and the introduction set the stage for two late Maryland goals.
This time, Adetola operated on the left wing, regularly drawing the lethargic Rutgers defender Thomas Devizio out of position by dropping short and getting in behind the defense.
Adetola’s first major contribution after returning to the pitch was a burst of pace and forward pass down the wing, triggering a Maryland counter attack from a defensive position.
With Maryland looking for a goal, Adetola was a constant option on the wing in isolation. His first step and push towards the byline showed no sign of the injuries that had plagued him in his early Maryland career.
“Just vintage Fola out there,” Matzelevich said.
When Maryland’s situation got even more dire, with only 13 minutes on the clock, Adetola truly stepped up. He deftly controlled a loose ball in the box, held off his defender, and fed a perfectly-weighted layoff into the feet of David Kovacic, who smashed in the winning goal. And for a moment, the usually subdued Adetola showed emotion, spreading his arms in celebration.
Two minutes later, the senior wanted a goal for himself. Getting a step on Devizio and avoiding the official’s offside flag, Adetola darted diagonally in behind the defense. Chris Rindov fired a floated ball from the back, and Adetola looked certain to cap off a dream evening. However, when one-on-one with the goalie, his side-footed shot trickled wide.
Still, Adetola made his case for further inclusion in the coming weeks. And with further injuries, Adetola may have more chances to find the back of the net.
“To see a person like that… from the area, come through the ranks, play at Maryland, come in and do such a great job,” Matzelevich said. “It just puts a smile on your face.”