Maryland men’s soccer defender Johannes Bergmann should probably score more often. Despite standing at 6’1, the senior is more comfortable with the ball at his feet than cannoning off his head. Even with headers removed as an option, his technical left foot should have yielded a goal at this point. Yet Bergmann hasn’t scored in his Maryland career.
That changed on Friday. In a massive home clash against Indiana, Begrmann finally had the opportunity to celebrate. His moment came in the 29th minute, when he met Eli Crognale’s cross at the far post and buried a header into the bottom corner. Bergann turned and took off away from goal, searching for his parents — who had traveled from Germany for the match. He ran down the sideline, pointing into the crowd and smiling in delight.
He wasn’t the only Terrapin smiling on Friday. Matched up against longtime Big Ten rival and one of the best teams in the nation, the Terps gave Ludwig Field’s lights plenty of opportunities to shine, dispatching the Hoosiers 3-0.
“We needed to have a good feel game,” coach Sasho Cirovksi said. “Tonight was a good feel game.”
Amid a cold spell in front of goal, injury struggles and a lineup lacking in fitness, Maryland came into Friday night’s game forced to embrace an underdog role. It embraced the label with a clinical attitude. With the No. 6 team in the nation in town, Maryland soaked up early pressure before striking three times in quick succession, effectively sealing the game before halftime.
A consistent press has evaded the Terps so far this season. As much as Cirovski has preached cohesive pressure, Maryland hasn’t been able to sustain such a concept for 90 minutes. That defining trait was almost entirely abandoned in the early goings.
“They’re really physical, very good at playing out,” Matzelevich said. “It was a good contest.”
Indeed, Indiana was given freedom to knock the ball around. And for the opening 10 minutes, Maryland couldn’t get the ball out of its own half — constantly chasing Indiana shadows. Yet for all of the Hoosiers’ pretty play, they didn’t register a shot. Their lack of attempts allowed Maryland to settle into the game, and eventually match Indiana’s energy.
And when the Terps found the pace, the goals began to flow.
Maryland’s first strike was an opportunistic finish from David Kovacic. Ben Di Rosa made a marauding run down the right and fizzed a cross into the box. It bounced around, cannoning off a sequence of flailing legs before falling perfectly to the feet of Kovacic. And he seized on the chance, finding the bottom corner from close range.
“It wasn’t necessarily a pretty goal,” Crognale said. “When it went in, it brought us tons of energy.”
For the next 14 minutes, Maryland systematically controlled the contest. It pushed further up the field, daring Indiana to play long. When the Hoosiers did so, Maryland swept up at the back and began to create. A second goal seemed to be coming.
“We turned the tide there pretty quickly,” Cirovski said. “Getting the first goal in a game like this is always really important.”
And it came in short order. Maryland won the ball back in the middle of the pitch and attacked with vicious intent. Justin Gielen fed Malcolm Johnston, who saw Eric Matzelevich wide open in the penalty area. Maryland’s striker had time to control the ball and pick his spot, sending the crew into raptures as he rippled the net for 2-0.
70 seconds later, an unthinkable third found the net. Maryland worked a quick corner, with Crognale floating a cross to a wide open Bergmann, who lept for an easy header into the corner. With 16 minutes remaining in the half, the Terps led 3-0.
“Goals are always nice,” Bergmann said. “It was my first goal here… it felt really really good.”
Indiana lost 10 starters for this season, and thus far its youth hasn’t been exploited. For the last 16 minutes of the first half, Maryland’s cooler and older heads asserted themselves. With no need to apply further pressure, the Terps saw out the rest of the period, carrying a commanding lead into the break.
Perhaps wary of a comeback, Maryland started the second half in a similar defensive setup as the first. And it soaked up pressure with similar efficiency. Indiana was more assertive this time, firing in crosses and crafting opportunities. Yet Maryland produced the necessary defensive quality to keep the Hoosiers at bay.
“Our team defending was as good as it’s been all year,” Cirovski said. “We put in a full 90 minute shift.”
As the half wore on, the home side snatched a few opportunities for themselves. Deployed in a more attacking role, Crognale frequently linked up with Matzelevich and Gielen. The trio dazzled under the Ludwig lights, simultaneously creating chances and pushing the opposition back into its own half.
And Indiana stayed there. Maryland produced a cerebral second half to match its clinical first, calmly seeing out a 3-0 win.
“Great night. Great performance,” Cirovski said. “Against a great team.”