By Tim Ryan
COLLEGE PARK – As the clock at Ludwig Field ticked under one minute to play on Friday night, sophomore goalkeeper Zack Steffen lined up a free kick near midfield and prepared to set up the Terps’ final opportunity to erase Michigan State’s one-goal lead.
He tapped the ball to defensemen Jereme Raley, who streaked down the right side of the field unmarked as the rest of the players on the pitch packed into the Spartans’ box. Raley sent a cross into the crowded area in front of the goal and right onto the head of junior defensemen Mikey Ambrose. For a moment, it appeared the Terps would tie the game.
But a Michigan State defender leaped just before the ball sailed into the open top-right corner of the net and sent the shot away, preserving Michigan State’s 1-0 victory.
“We did everything right,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “And their defender made a great play.”
Maryland controlled the time of possession in the second half and outshot the #16 Spartans 8-2 during the contest, but Michigan State scored what proved to be the winning goal in the eighth minute of the game and the Terps were unable to equalize.
The loss drops the Terps to 1-3-2 on the season, and marks the third time this season last year’s national runners up have failed to score a goal.
Junior midfielder Jason Stacy scored Michigan State’s deciding tally after the Maryland defender marking him on the play fell down in the box. Stacy had enough space to fire a shot into the bottom left corner of the net past Steffen to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead just more than eight minutes into the game.
Stacy’s goal was the only shot for Michigan State in the first half as the Spartans prioritized stopping Maryland’s attack over setting up rushes of their own. The Terps outshot the Spartans 3-1 in the first 45 minutes.
“They dropped a lot of numbers back and they’ve got some big strong kids in the middle,” Cirovski said. “We just didn’t get enough guys in the box. We kept the ball, kept the ball but when we got crosses we didn’t have enough guys in the box.
Maryland came within inches of tying the game in the first half as well when junior midfielder Tsubasa Endoh sent a corner kick through the box and right to defenseman Alex Crognale. The sophomore made solid contact on the header, but the ball ended up just a bit too far to right and clanged off the post.
Endoh tallied three shots in his second game back from a muscle strain, including two on target.
Michigan State generated little offense after its initial goal, and the Terps defense stifled most of the Spartans opportunities in the second half, but the single goal was enough for the Spartans to leave College Park with their fifth win of the year.
“We gave up one goal, so we didn’t do our jobs as a team defensively,” Ambrose said.
Cirovski said the offense has not yet reached the level of on-field communication and execution he hopes for, in part due to injuries and shuffling of lineups and took the blame for what he said was a lack of consistency.
“Trust me, you’re going to be hearing from us,” Cirovski said. “We’re going to get a lot better. This is a group I really believe in.”
The game was the Terps first against a Big Ten opponent.
The team returns to Ludwig Field on Sept. 22 against Dayton at 7 pm.