When midfielder Amar Sejdic spun in the air and used his back to connect with defender Chase Gasper’s cross, it ended Maryland’s 476-minute scoreless drought to start the season.
It wasn’t the prettiest or most orthodox way to score a goal, but entering the game as one of the only two Division 1 men’s soccer teams without a goal, the Terps couldn’t be picky about how the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Maryland was 13 minutes away from heading to overtime in a scoreless draw for the third time in five games this season, but Sejdic capitalized for the first time in the 2018 campaign.
“I’m just happy I saw Chase make that run and whip the ball in,” Sejdic said. “I just put my body in between the guy and the ball, and it went in.”
The Terps used their reliable defense to hold on for a 1-0 victory, capturing their first win of the season Monday night in front of 1,195 fans at Ludwig Field. The win snaps a streak of 10 straight games without a victory dating back to last season and relieves some of the pressure that’s been building for weeks.
Before Sejdic’s goal, it was another frustrating offensive performance. The Terps held the shot advantage throughout the first half, but couldn’t capitalize, which has been the story for much of the season.
Forward Paul Bin fell to the turf in the box during the 70th minute, but a penalty kick wasn’t issued to the Terps. At that point, it felt as if Maryland would have to wait for its Big Ten opener on Friday against Northwestern to end its scoreless streak.
Sejdic had two shots in a short span in the second half, but both sailed high. The second was uncontested with just the goalkeeper to beat, but the senior got under the ball and hit it over the crossbar, and also over the netting behind the goal.
The Louisville, Kentucky, native said the team had to battle mental and physical fatigue after playing UCLA two days prior in a game that was postponed due to a weather delay. But less than 15 minutes after his two misfires, the senior captain overcame that tiredness.
Gasper carried the ball down the left side of the field, beating his defender to whip in a cross into the box. Sejdic was perfectly positioned against his defender, able to but his body into the path of the ball for the decisive strike.
“I’ve been asking Amar to get in the box,” Cirovski said. “He had two really good looks tonight that he otherwise finishes. So for him to make that hard run in that space … that’s the kind of stuff we need from Amar.”
Crossing and finishing are two things Maryland worked on heavily in the past week, Gasper said. So when the opportunity came for him to provide a threatening pass, it felt natural. The defender has helped solidify the backline, but assisted on the first goal of the season.
“The best way to defend is to attack,” Gasper said. “We’ve been getting unlucky, but we just kept attacking, working hard and every guy on this team gave everything they had.”
The Terps also overcame the second straight game without forward Sebastian Elney, who is still recovering from an ankle injury.
Maryland’s backline continued its strong play and notched its third clean sheet of the season. Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair made six saves, including a one-handed diving save in the first half. The Mountaineers pushed for the equalizer late, but the defensive unit kept strong. Five games into the season, the Terps have conceded just three times.
Despite the defensive success, the Terps had a nightmarish start to the season. On Monday, at long last, they ended the skid, even if it wasn’t overly convincing.
“Sometimes the light, it just clicks and then it starts to flow,” Cirovski said. “We’re still waiting for that, but I thought tonight was a positive step forward.”