By Emily Olsen
Maryland defender Chris Odoi-Atsem sprinted up the right flank and took a shot that was deflected off of UCLA defender Michael Amick’s arm. The referee whistled for a handball and what followed was a sight reminiscent of Maryland’s 2014 season.
Midfielder Mael Corboz placed the ball on the penalty line and took his calculated steps backward. Propelling himself forward after a brief stutter step, Corboz pounded the ball into the lower left corner and out of UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes’s reach. Corboz was the first player to mark the score sheet for either team in Friday’s instant classic match between the No.6 Maryland Terrapins and No. 1 UCLA Bruins.
“We got the penalty kick from going wide,” said coach Sasho Cirovski “When we attack those areas we are very dangerous.”
If this was last season, Corboz’s free kick may have been the game-winning goal, and the 2014 league-leading scorer would have secured another win for the Terps.
But this is 2015 and the Terps’ greatest strength comes from a new set of faces. The integration of influential newcomers with the already experienced players was a major factor in Maryland’s takedown of the number one team in the nation.
In front of a record-breaking crowd of 8,449 (previous record 2013 Maryland vs. Duke: 8,397) five new additions to Maryland’s team took their spots in the starting lineup; four of those players are current freshmen.
“Going into this year a lot of people doubted us based on our youth,” goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier said. “We are setting the tone. I think people are going to understand what we are all about.”
Playing in front of a record-breaking crowd, against the Number 1 team in the nation, in their first experience on the field at Ludwig, the new Terps found composure.
“We coach composure and we coach discipline but their [freshmen’s] talent on the ball, their composure on the ball, they brought that with them,” Cirovski said. “The first 30 minutes of this game is when you’re worried about their anxiety and they came out flying.”
Maryland switched its formation after Corboz’s goal in an attempt to defend the lead, but Cirovski admitted the formation was not something the team had practiced.
In the 80th minute of play, after two agile saves from redshirt junior Niedermeier, UCLA answered. With a quick shot, Abu Danladi rocketed a ball into the upper right corner of the net.
Fatigued, Maryland held off the Bruins for the final ten minutes of regulation. Despite a powerful shot on-target by Maryland sophomore Jake Areman, the Terps and Bruins headed to overtime tied at 1-1.
Six minutes into regulation freshman forward Sebastian Elney stole the show and broke the stands.
As senior Tsubasa Endoh worked the ball on the right side, Elney took his position centered in front of UCLA’s net. Endoh played all 96 minutes of the game and controlled both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Endoh spent a majority of the game facilitating plays and moving the ball out wide. On this particular play, Endoh crossed a high ball in front of the UCLA goal and immediately Elney headed the ball into the net.
“As soon as I saw that ball from Endoh, I knew it was coming for me head,” Elney said. “It was insane. I didn’t know the game was over and then it hit me and I saw my teammates, I saw my brothers running toward me.”
Without fully processing that the game had ended, Elney sprinted to the Crew and tore off his jersey in celebration. The entire Maryland roster cleared the bench to congratulate their new teammate on his first goal in front of the Maryland Crew.
“It’s a dream. It’s a dream come true and more,” Elney said.
Despite out shooting UCLA in the first half 11-3, the Terps could not find the back of the net in the early minutes of the game.
“We started out on fire, we created a lot of chances. We did not capitalize,” Cirovski said.
Frustration and fatigue did not hinder either team as they battled for 96 minutes. The match was physically and mentally tasking for both squads.
“I do think we got a little fatigued in the second half and I think a lot of the freshman did because they are not used to this kind of energy emotionally or physically,” Cirovski said. “They are still getting in their game-shape.”
Several players battled exhaustion during the game and in the 88th minute of play Maryland’s newest threat at leftback Diego Silva went down with an apparent hamstring issue. Cirovski refused to speculate any further about his player’s health.
Maryland has yet to find a go-to scorer, six different players took shots on target Friday, but the Terps utilized a different strength. The team has developed yet another signature family among the 2015 Maryland men’s soccer team. After the goal by UCLA, Maryland relied on the experienced back line in Odoi-Atsem, Crognale, and midfielder Corboz to collect and battle another sixteen minutes to a victory.
“We bounced back. We have such a close brotherhood. We fought for each other,” Elney said. “We got the result, that’s what matters.”