A palpable tension engulfed the surroundings of Ludwig field, where seniors Ryan Blumberg, Justin Gielen, Brayan Padilla, and captains Brett St. Martin and Nick Richardson were all honored before a Maryland men’s soccer heavyweight clash against the Indiana Hoosiers.
With the help of an unlikely goal scorer, No. 7 Maryland (12-3-1, 5-2-1 B1G) managed to shutout No. 22 Indiana (12-4-1, 5-3-0 B1G), 2-0, in its regular season finale. In a match full of Big Ten implications, the Terps also used the three points they earned to jump up to the second spot in the conference, paving themselves a much less turbulent path in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Terps saw their best chance of the first half on 35 minutes off of a good spell of high press, as silky-smooth Caden Stafford chipped a pass over the top of the defense for Ben Bender, who saw his effort pushed wide by Indiana goalkeeper Roman Celentano. That would be the busiest Celentano would be for the rest of the half, as the game remained scoreless going into halftime. The first half begged for a goal that it never got, but the Terps were dangerously close to letting one in the dying embers of the first
On the other side of the ball, the Terps saw their greatest moment of vulnerability come a minute from time, as attacker Herbert Endeley saw his way through the defense and one-on-one with Neumann again. This time, Neumann was bypassed, but Chris Rindov flew across the near post to prevent an easy Indiana goal and preserve the tie.
A scoreless halftime in important matches usually spells a hectic second half full of big chances and opportunities. Two corners came within the first three minutes of the second half, and a goal came off of the second one from the most unlikely of all sources.
As if written from a movie script, Blumberg, the senior all the way from Australia, scored the first goal of his career on his senior day. Blumberg rose the highest on the second corner to give the Terps the lead.
Blumberg had only played nine minutes in his entire career prior to this game.
The Australian then suffered through eligibility problems in 2019, a COVID-shortened 2020 season, and injuries through his entire career, but his first start proved to be worth the wait.
“It was a crazy experience to even be on the field on senior day against Indiana, one of the better teams in the country, and to score was a huge buildup of emotion,” Blumberg said, “that kind of came out of nowhere,”
Three minutes after the goal, Blumberg was subbed off, and he gave coach Sasho Cirovski a massive hug as he made it to the bench. Blumberg’s journey to get here consisted of decommitting from Maryland and signing with Charlton, then in England’s third division, and then being released and coming back to Maryland.
“Seeing Ryan emote on the field with tears, it’s what dreams are made of,” said Cirovski, who has spoken very highly of Blumberg’s leadership despite his lack of playing time throughout the season.
The Terps had a golden opportunity to double the lead after a handball in the penalty area gifted the Terps a penalty. Ben Bender stepped up to make it 2-0, and his shot was stopped unbelievably by Celentano. Bender went soft and down the middle sending Celentano the wrong way, but an outstretched leg stopped the penalty and provided one of the best saves a goalie can make.
Just two minutes later, on the ensuing Maryland attack, substitute Jacen Russell-Rowe saw himself in a fortuitous position inside the 18-yard box near the touchline, gaining possession off of a loose ball. Russell-Rowe squared the ball back to the penalty spot, and this time Bender put the shot away to make amends for his earlier miss with a goal.
The Bender goal put Maryland in cruise control for the rest of the match, easing off the gas pedal and just seeing the game out to the tune of a 2-0 win. The win, combined with Penn State’s win, gives them the number two seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament. The Terps will host Northwestern on November 7 at Ludwig.