Mike Heitzmann tried to hype up the Ludwig Field crowd. Sasho Cirovski walked nervously. Niklas Neumann spread his arms and legs wide, using every bit of his 6-foot-1 frame to cover as much of the net as possible. Meanwhile, Indiana’s Jack Maher stood confidently, eyeing up a penalty kick.
He strode up to the ball confidently and stroked it into the bottom corner. With the composed stroke of his right boot, Maryland men’s soccer’s Big Ten season ended early in a 1-0 golden goal defeat against the top-seeded Hoosiers.
Maher’s 103rd-minute penalty kick was the only goal of a tightly fought contest between two Big Ten powers. Indiana piled on the pressure for the first 90 minutes, but Maryland had the better looks in the overtime periods. Yet Indiana finally capitalized on its sustained pressure, finding a dramatic winner in overtime and sending Maryland home one game short of the Big Ten tournament championship.
“We just got outplayed throughout the game,” forward Justin Gielen said. “It sucks when that happens but you move forward from it.”
Maryland’s death blow came off a handball from Matt Di Rosa in the 103rd minute. Joshua Penn ripped a shot from outside the box that cannoned off Di Rosa’s trailing arm. Despite his animated protests, referee Sorin Stoica pointed to the spot, and Maher made no mistake.
Although Maryland enjoyed the bulk of possession in the early goings, Indiana had the first real chance. Off an Indiana corner, the ball bounced around the box. It fell to Aidan Morris on the left, but his driven shot narrowly evaded the far post.
The Terps countered with a couple of chances of their own. Exploiting Indiana’s advancing full backs, the Terps crafted opportunities on the wings. Both Eric Matzelevich and David Kovacic received passes, cut inside, and had a go — but neither could convert.
“We started brightly, the first 15 minutes we were playing well,” Cirovski said. “It looked like we were on pace for a good performance.”
As the visitors began to settle into the game, Maryland was pushed on the back foot. The Hoosiers attacked menacingly on the wings, firing crosses at an ailing backline. However, they couldn’t convert, with a combination of poor finishing and timely saves from Niklas Neumann keeping the game scoreless.
“[Neumann] was outstanding today,” Cirovski said. “He showed that we’ve got a special goalkeeper.”
42 minutes in, Matt Di Rosa kept Maryland alive. Joshua Penn fired a vicious shot towards the bottom corner after a speedy counter-attack. Yet Di Rosa muted his effort with a last-gasp clearance off the line. It served as an oddly perfect microcosm of the last 20 minutes of the first half — amid constant pressure from the Hoosiers, the Terps stayed alive.
“It’s not the first time that’s happened, with Matty and Ben [Di Rosa] doing outstanding jobs,” Neumann said.
Indiana continued its attacking onslaught in the second half. When the two sides met in October, the Hoosiers’ pace was largely nullified as the Terps matched their intensity. On Friday, Indiana’s speed showed. As soon as Maryland pushed up, it was immediately pushed back by a relentless Indiana attack.
For all of their opportunities, though, Indiana couldn’t find the back of the net. Neumann continued to be reliable between the sticks for the first 25 minutes of the second half, notching back-to-back saves to keep the Terps alive. Meanwhile, Matt Di Rosa and Ben Di Rosa settled more into the game at the full back positions, proving a better match for Indiana’s wide-oriented attack.
With five minutes remaining, Indiana found another gear. Instead of playing wide, they pushed through the middle, creating shots from outside the box. Spencer Glass and Aidan Morris both had good looks from 20 yards out, glancing their driven strikes off defenders. Thanks to timely reflexes from Neumann, Indiana couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I felt kind of in a zone,” Neumann said. “Sometimes you just feel it a little bit differently.”
It took until the 90th minute for Maryland to have its first shot of the second half. After Nick Richardson and A.J. Palazzolo clashed heads leaping for a long ball, the referee awarded Maryland a free kick from 20 yards out. Eli Crognale stepped up with a chance to send the Terps to the Big Ten tournament championship, but cannoned his shot off the wall. Thus, the game went to overtime, with Maryland perhaps lucky to have survived.
The Terps started the overtime on the front foot, engineering some better looks in the final third. In the 92nd minute, Eli Crognale lofted a cross that narrowly evaded two Terps who were stretching to finish into an open net. But the game settled back into a familiar pattern. Maher’s penalty kick eventually sealed Maryland’s fate — capping off a dominant performance from the Hoosiers and sending the Terps home early.
“My takeaway is that our guys never quit,” Cirovski said. “Even when it wasn’t our best night, they fought to the final whistle.”