Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski considers the first Friday night game of the season at Ludwig Field to be one of the biggest stages in college soccer.
Two years ago, No. 1-ranked UCLA visited Maryland for the 2015 edition of “Friday Night Lights,” and the teams played a game Cirovski said was one of the best of the season.
That matchup ended with forward Sebastian Elney — a freshman at the time — heading home an overtime winner, tearing off his jersey and celebrating with The Crew as the poles behind the goal at the south end of Ludwig Field nearly gave way.
This year, Elney provided another overtime winner into the same goal of Ludwig Field, tearing his shirt off again in front of the fans, though this time there was no apparent structural compromise in the celebration of No. 6 Maryland’s 3-2 win over No. 15 UCLA.
“All instinct,” Elney, now a junior, said of the familiar post-goal routine. “Felt like deja vu.”
The announced attendance of 7,532, the fourth-largest crowd in Ludwig history, saw a physical first half followed up by a more open second frame. The two teams needed overtime to decide a winner for the third time in as many years.
“We both love to play each other,” Cirovski said. “This is a win-win game earlier in the year. It’s two great programs that bring the best out of each other.”
The teams combined for just four shots in the first 34 minutes, but Maryland (3-0) had four shots in the final 11 minutes of the half to head into the locker room with a 7-1 shooting advantage.
The Terps carried that momentum into the start of the second half, and in the 56th minute, they finally broke through.
Midfielder Amar Sejdic dribbled into the box and attempted to play a cross, earning Maryland’s first penalty kick of the season by hitting UCLA midfielder Matthew Powell’s arm.
Forward Gordon Wild, who was 3-for-5 on penalties last year, buried the spot kick into the bottom left corner as Bruins goalkeeper Kevin Silva dove to the right.
UCLA (1-1) equalized in the 68th minute when Bruin defender Erik Holt finished a rebound from the middle of the box as Maryland scrambled to get back into position.
“They pressured us, pushed the game,” Cirovski said, “[and] found a way to come back into the game.”
Maryland answered about five minutes later. Midfielder Jake Rozhansky took a throw-in quickly to midfielder Eryk Williamson, who lofted a pass back to forward Eric Matzelevich at the top of the box.
Matzelevich watched the ball take a bounce in front of him and hit it first-time with his right foot. It kissed the inside of the near-post and ricocheted into the goal.
Again, though, the Bruins got back even. Midfielder Brian Iloski took a free kick from just outside the box and curled it with his left foot around the post, leaving Maryland goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair with little chance to stop it and sending the teams to overtime again.
“This was a really hard-nosed, highly competitive college soccer game,” Cirovski said.
Cirovski said he felt Maryland’s schedule — three games in eight days, including a trip to California — meant the Terps weren’t as fresh as the Bruins, who entered Friday having played one contest this season.
The teams had gone past regulation in their previous two matchups, with Maryland winning 2-1 in 2015 and the teams playing to a 1-1 draw last season. But even with their tight schedule, the Terps still came out on top.
In the 98th minute, midfielder Jake Rozhansky switched the field with a pass to Elney behind the defense and right in front of the goal. Elney finished cleanly, rolling a shot past Silva and becoming a two-time Bruin slayer.
“It’s a great feeling,” Elney said. “I feel like a freshman again.”