Maryland men’s soccer was coming off a hard-fought 1-0 double overtime upset win over then-No. 9 St. John’s before traveling to face Wisconsin on Friday. And the Terps carried that momentum against the Badgers, taking a stranglehold on play early on and recording 11 shots in the first 39 minutes.
Then, in the 40th minute, coach Sasho Cirovski’s team was forced to adjust. Midfielder Malcolm Johnston was shown a straight red card.
But despite playing a man down in the team’s second straight double-overtime game, the Terps gritted out a 0-0 draw on the road against the Big Ten foe. While the tie wasn’t the desired outcome after such a promising start, it validated Cirovski’s belief that this team is capable of overcoming adversity.
“It’s just further proof that we have the character and quality to be a great team,” Cirovski said. “We haven’t got all the results we want yet, but I like the direction we’re going.”
Midfielder Eli Crognale said the team was trying to feed off the dramatic win against the Red Storm and use that momentum to capture its first conference win of the season.
The Terps looked poised to strike early, forcing Wisconsin goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy to make six first-half saves. They began to lose steam, though, when Johnston was sent off for excessive contact against a Badgers player late in the half.
During halftime, Cirovski pleaded for each player to give an additional 10 percent with their effort.
“If the other 10 guys add 10 percent, we have an 11th player,” Cirovski said.
Replacing Johnston required all 10 remaining players to cover more ground and remain cohesive in a depleted formation. Even after a heavy workload against St. John’s four days prior, the Terps responded to snatch a hard-earned point on the road.
“It just says how experienced we are, and how smart of players we have just to understand where the spacing is even when we’re down a man,” Crognale said. “We didn’t concede a goal, so defensively we were smart. We’ll take the one point for now.”
Since the preseason, Cirovski’s team has faced several obstacles in its pursuit of repeating as national champions.
Maryland lost starting forward Paul Bin for the entire season in early August, and has since seen other key contributors such as Crognale and midfielder William James Herve battle nagging injuries early in the campaign.
But the Terps haven’t relented, managing a 4-3-1 record as they approach the second half of the regular season, starting with the team’s ninth game — a showdown with Rutgers on Wednesday night at Ludwig Field.
Though the energy from the St. John’s win didn’t carry over into a victory over the Badgers, Cirovski and the upperclassmen don’t view the draw as a step back.
Rather, they see it as a slight pause in the encouraging direction they believe this group is going with a similar mental fortitude to last season’s team, which also withstood its share of adversity en route to a title.
“It was a pretty first half [against the Badgers],” defender Ben Di Rosa said. “We’ve got a lot of guys willing just to be gritty and grind it out, and I think that’s a great way to get results.”