Maryland men’s soccer suffers gut wrenching 2-1 loss against Missouri State in second round of NCAA Tournament

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

The clock showed 35 seconds remaining in regulation, and the match looked for certain it was going into overtime. However, the Maryland backline broke down. 

The ball lofted into the Maryland end, where Maryland defender Brett St. Martin failed to clear the ball, and it found Missouri State sophomore forward Jon Koka’s foot. Koka was uncovered and put the ball into the back of the net, giving the Bears a 2-1 lead and what turned out to be the game winning goal.

With the last-second defeat in Wilmington, North Carolina, the Terps season ends much earlier than they’d hoped in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m absolutely gutted for all our players,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We battled with a lot of pride and had an opportunity to steal this match. Missouri State is an outstanding team and we did everything necessary to win the game.”

The action of the match picked up significantly in the latter stages of the match. In the 84th minute, Eric Matzelevich scored off a brilliant cross from redshirt sophomore midfielder/defender Nick Richardson. 

“Eric [Matzelevich], doing Eric, just finishing plays off,” redshirt senior forward Paul Bin said. 

However, the lead would not last long as Koka would score moments later to equalize the score. 

The Bears dominated both possession and shots throughout the match, but Maryland remained in it the entire 90 minutes. Maryland had a golden opportunity to equalize with seconds left, but sophomore midfielder Justin Harris lifted a shot over the wide-open net. 

Early in the match it was Missouri State who found success on the attack with three attempted corner kicks and shots, before Maryland had any. The Terps first chance came in the 25th minute when freshman defender Kento Abe connected junior forward Brayan Padilla with a pass just outside the Missouri State box. 

Yet, Padilla’s shot drifted wide of the net. From that moment the pace of the game picked up, but the Bears were still the more dangerous team offensively the remainder of the first half in what was a scoreless game after 45 minutes.

To start the second half, Maryland responded with more success on the attacking end. In the 55th minute, Maryland junior forward Justin Gielen took freshman midfielder Ben Bender’s pass and headed the ball that just missed the Missouri State goal. Moments later, Padilla blasted a shot wide of the net.

As the match progressed and still no score, Missouri State had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 70th minute. A counter-attack by the Bears found the ball in the Maryland end. Senior forward Josh Dolling sent the ball into the back of the net past freshman goalie Jamie Lowell. However, the goal was waved off as a Bears player was ruled offside.

In the 77th minute, Missouri State thought for sure they would be up 1-0 in the match. Aadne Bruseth went past Lowell inside the box and faced an open net. Sophomore defender Chris Rindov saved the moment with a dive and denied the chance, keeping the score even.

Seven minutes later it was Maryland who struck first. Richardson took the ball in the Bears penalty area and sent a crossing ball towards the net. While the cross sailed a little far, Matzelevich was there and headed the ball into the back of the net, giving Maryland a 1-0 lead in the 84th minute. 

“It was great to watch the goal, the play was awesome, and to be honest, I’d thought we’d won it,” Bin said. 

However, Koka and the Bears quickly responded with a tying goal that quieted much of Maryland’s momentum. Then a few minutes later shortly before the conclusion of regulation, Koka created another golden chance beating Lowell with his left foot. 

That late goal left the Terps players and bench desperate to find the tying goal.

“We got a little sloppy at the end, it’s that simple,” Cirovski said. “We should have been able to close this game out. The way we defended for 85 minutes was great and the last five minutes we just didn’t defend well. But I’m proud of this team. We put in a valiant effort against a very good and mature Missouri State team.”

Maryland couldn’t capitalize in the final 30 seconds as the Terps one last chance went over the bar when Harris sent a shot over the net.

“Obviously, the result, definitely not what we wanted,” Matzelevich said. “But I can’t fault the guys, they put everything out there.”

Maryland finishes the 2020 season 4-5-2, ending the season far earlier than it would’ve hoped.

“I think people are going to look at this season from the outside and see it as a failure,” Bin said. “I think we’ve gone through so much this year from COVID, from a heck of injuries and just a lot of adversity. I think overcoming adversity as a collective and still having a smile on our face and still being able to enjoy the ride with your best friends, I think is a success story in itself.”