First, it was a cheap giveaway leading to a goal. Then, a missed penalty. A wonder strike. Then, a tap in.
That was the sequence of events in Maryland men’s soccer’s season-opener at Penn State, a 3-2 loss in which the Terps conceded three goals — and missed a penalty — in just about a 29-minute span midway through the first half.
“I hate losing. I hate the way we started. And we got to correct that next game,” coach Sasho Cirovski said after the final whistle.
Nearly six weeks later, the season looks radically different. Now 4-3, Maryland is back to facing the same opponent.
But this time, the Terps are coming into the game riding four consecutive wins — and approaching a chance for revenge against a Nittany Lions team that exposed their weaknesses early in the campaign.
“We’re in the best form of our lives right now,” forward Paul Bin said.
On Feb. 19, Penn State jumped on Maryland and never looked back, scoring its first goal in the sixth minute after piling on pressure in the opening exchanges. Though the Terps had a chance to level things from the penalty spot, the home side dominated the flow of play and were good for a 3-1 lead at halftime.
Penn State has continued to score since then and now stands at 6-1 overall while challenging for the Big Ten regular season title. It recently knocked off Rutgers — the last team to beat Maryland — by a comfortable 4-2 margin.
When the two sides previously met, the Terps struggled to contain the Nittany Lions’ dynamic front four. Forwards Daniel Bloyou and Peter Mangione combined for the third goal, and Mangione assisted the first.
Meanwhile, Andrew Privett and Seth Kuhn made driving runs from midfield leading to seven first-half attempts on goal for Penn State.
“Their front four are all very dangerous players. And the two forwards both have really good goal-scoring instincts,” Cirovski said.
Maryland will need to rely on its defense, which has looked much improved in recent weeks. There have been shaky moments; late goals conceded against Michigan State and Northwestern turned comfortable wins into close finishes.
But this time, the Terps will have to be even sturdier, especially against a team that has shown its goal-scoring chops.
“They attack the ball, we got to be very good with our box defending in the game,” Cirovski said.
But Maryland isn’t scared.
Instead, the Terps are looking to build off their prior experience against the Nittany Lions and subvert the result. And given its recent strong run of form, Maryland believes that might be attainable.
“If we continue to play like this, we can play any team and we can beat any team,” Bin said.