By: Eric Myers
After the pain subsided, Johannes Bergmann joined the mob of teammates around Amar Sejdic in the corner. It was Sejdic who delivered on the penalty kick that helped turn Bergmann’s discomfort to celebration after the junior was incidentally kicked in the face inside the penalty box.
Sejdic’s goal in the 57th minute was the lone score in Maryland’s 1-0 win over Akron on Sunday night in the College Cup finals. The penalty kick past Akron goalkeeper Ben Lundt propelled Maryland to the program’s fourth-ever College Cup.
“I’ve been training all year and I knew that I wanted to be the guy to step up in that moment,” said Sejdic, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College Cup. “I knew what I had to do to put my team in front and I executed and we celebrated accordingly.”
The celebration in the corner that followed Sejdic’s goal was only a preview of what was to come for the Terrapins.
First, Maryland and their formidable defense needed to ensure that the penalty kick goal would be the game-winner and secure the winning result. Staking a lead in the game was important for Maryland, as it allowed the Terrapins to rely on their defense, which entered the game having not allowed a goal in the four prior games of the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland’s defense, anchored by defender Donavon Pines and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, repeatedly deterred chances on long attempted passes, crosses into the box and set pieces to stymie the Zips’ attack.
With about 15 minutes remaining, Matt Di Rosa brought in a ball and looked to have a one-on-one change against the Lundt developing. Before Di Rosa could get that shot off, Lundt, coming well off his line, upended Di Rosa with an aggressive sliding attempt to knock the ball away. Lundt was whistled for a call in the box, and Sejdic had another opportunity from the penalty spot.
Sejdic, with an opportunity to give Maryland a commanding 2-0 lead, approached the ball, hesitated and sent his shot to the left, where his first attempt went. Lundt was up for the task, guessed correctly and kept the shot out of the net to keep Akron in the match.
The Zips’ quest for a goal was made much more difficult in the 80th minute when the referee showed defender Carlo Rittacio a red card for a takedown on DJ Reeves just outside of the 18-foot box. Akron would now need to push past Maryland’s daunting defense to overcome the 1-0 hole.
Akron nearly broke through and generated a one-on-one change against St. Clair with six minutes remaining as the Zips quickly pushed the ball up the field. Ben Di Rosa’s effort to get in front of the would-be shooter and clear the ball away helped Maryland avoid any further danger in that situation.
Ben Di Rosa’s clearance was one of many for the Maryland defense that closed the season with five consecutive shutouts and a key cog in the team’s national championship.
“I could not be more proud of this group,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We talked about this being a big moment for our program. They were pushed and hardened after a challenging schedule. And now, they’re jewels. I am incredibly happy for them.”
In the midst of the celebration, complete with confetti and national champions hats and shirts, there were six seniors who ended their collegiate careers on the summit of college soccer as national champions after enduring heartbreak and disappointment in their previous three seasons. The final result, though, punctuated their redemption story.
“It’s a fairy-tale moment for this senior squad because we came to Maryland for a moment like this and it couldn’t be any better to leave college on this note,” Sejdic told the television broadcast.