Johannes Bergmann stands at 6-foot-1. On size alone, the Maryland men’s soccer center back should be dominant in the air. Despite his physical attributes, he struggled with headers for his first few seasons in College Park. But after offseason work, he’s shown great improvement this season.
Never was that more obvious than on Monday night as the Terps squared off against Yale. Off a lofted corner from Eli Crognale, Bergmann leapt like a salmon at the far post and guided the ball into the back of the net. Chaos ensued for an exhausted Maryland squad, emotional after a 99th minute golden goal winner.
It was a dramatic end to an otherwise drab match. Both teams looked tired after intense Friday games. Still, the Terps clutched a 1-0 win from the jaws of a certain draw — adding confidence as well as another line to their postseason resume.
“Like the first goal, it feels perfect. It’s a perfect night again. It was a perfect moment.” Bergmann said. “It feels wonderful.”
Monday night games are some of the most difficult in college soccer. With no practices and very little time to recover from any knocks, piecing together a solid 90 minutes following a Friday night match is incredibly difficult — and the fatigue showed for both teams. But when the game seemed destined for a tie, Maryland found a crucial, if unlikely, winner.
Coach Sasho Cirovski has spent a lot of the season tinkering with Maryland’s lineup. On Friday, an attacking 4-3-3 formation served the Terps well. Thus, Cirovski stuck with the same personnel in the same setup.
But it lacked the same bite, as Yale started the contest on the front foot. In the fourth minute, Yale lofted a ball into the box that Eric Lagos headed goalwords. Maryland goalie Niklas Neumann made an acrobatic save, which a VAR look confirmed.
The Terps struggled to get in the game, looking leggy from Friday’s hard-fought contest. Meanwhile, Yale dictated the pace of the game more effectively. It was able to stretch Maryland, pouring numbers forward in attack. Yet the back four routinely covered and denied any looks on goal.
By the half, both teams seemed to be feeling the affects of a physical contest. Nick Richardson limped off a hard clash. Ben Di Rosa picked up numerous bruises matched up against the imposing Paolo Carroll on the left wing. The bruises were the only thing Maryland could take from a drab 45 minutes, as the first half ended as it started.
Switching things up, Maryland started the second half in a more assertive 3-5-2. The new formation gave the Terps more fluidity in attack, with both full backs playing high up the pitch.
“The 3-5-2 is definitely demanding for [Ben Di Rosa] and I,” Matt Di Rosa said. “But we pride ourselves in getting back and working hard.”
But there were drawbacks. Having more ground to cover, both full backs left some space in behind, which Yale managed to exploit on multiple occasions. But Bergmann, Richardson and Brett St. Martin produced multiple key headers and clearances to avert danger.
“Even though they pressured us in certain moments in the second half, we dealt with it,” Bergmann said.
But after an initially exciting first 10 minutes, the game settled back into a regrettably familiar pattern. Neither team could forge an opening, with half-chances on sloppy counter attacks the extent of the action.
“[Neumann] didn’t have to make any big saves,” Cirovski said. “We didn’t really test their keeper, either.”
Cirovski constantly tinkered with the personnel, trying desperately to open up the game. But no combination achieved the desired effect — as Maryland couldn’t find the back of the net. Yale couldn’t muster an adequate chance, either. Thus, with the two teams exchanging blows in the middle of the field, regulation ended all square.
After a taxing Friday night match, overtime wasn’t the ideal outcome for the Terps. Yale slogged through a difficult Friday themselves. Still, at the death of a dull overtime, Bergmann produced the moment of magic to send Maryland home happy.
“This was not a thing of beauty tonight,” Cirovski said. “Sometimes on these midweek games, you just have to grind it out.”