Hearts rattled as Maryland men’s soccer engaged in a slugfest with Rutgers that looked to finish dramatically. Shot after shot rang out, and save after save followed. Each club came within feet of besting the other, but fortune wouldn’t have it.
In a defensive battle, the Terps drew the Scarlet Knights, 0-0, in 110 minutes despite several promising advances by both clubs.
Maryland looked to establish a lead in conference play with its ranked clash against rival Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights challenged the Terps from the start, stuffing many of Maryland’s offensive efforts. The Terps’ frustration grew as they struggled to chain together passes and keep possession long enough to attempt quality chances.
“Today was nothing to do with a system or formation, it just had to do that we were just a little bit off,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Just a little bit fatigued and just not as crisp as I think we have been in most of our games.”
That frustration seemed to peak as Maryland exchanged three offensive players with three on the bench in the 24th minute. Forward Hunter George, seemingly angered by the effort so far, threw something down and grudgingly sat down.
While George’s reaction told all, it was earned. The Terps only took three shots in the half, with two on goal that traveled straight to the keeper. Maryland struggled to advance into the box and take the dangerous chances it needed to get on the board.
But the Terps’ backline held solid throughout the half and limited Rutgers to no first-half shots on goal.
“Defensively we looked a little sharp. They had some good chances but that’s expected. It’s a big time game,” defender Nick Richardson said.
The sides transitioned into the second half hoping to break the defensive duel open. With time, the defensive trend didn’t seem to change too much.
Minutes into the half, though, the Scarlet Knights began a second-half assault on Maryland that marked a noted change in tempo. The first five shots of the half came from Rutgers as several Terps came up short despite solid advances at times.
One Scarlet Knights shot went straight at goalkeeper Niklas Neumann, and the next was blocked. Rutgers was turning up the heat, and Maryland’s defense was bending.
It seemed the Terps desperately needed a solid push and a chance to hit a shot home. Off a close yellow card, they got it.
Joshua Bolma lined up for the close free kick, tapped his feet, and advanced. But it wasn’t to be.
Bolma sailed it high, and Rutgers’ defensive wall remained largely uncracked. While Bolma failed to be Maryland’s scoring catalyst in the moment, the Terps’ aggression peaked after the quality chance.
“I think our guys put it out there,” Cirovski said. “I thought the effort was outstanding. Just the quality could be better.”
Trying whatever it could to generate offense, Maryland began to chain together possessions and started to be more aggressive in slotting shots at the goal.
While the Terps gained the momentum, the Scarlet Knights nearly had a breathtaking answer.
Rutgers advanced and slammed a shot into the right, inner post just beyond Neumann’s outstretched arms. Inches came between a dramatic lead change, but Maryland’s luck won out.
“I did a good move and I was so far away so I hoped it would hit the post,” Neumann said. “Just a big relief. My heart rate definitely goes up in that moment.”
The Terps would take flight down the field for one last thundering advance. Two shots on goal were blocked by Scarlet Knights keeper Oren Asher as he flipped from side to the other.
But the chances weren’t enough as both teams hoped to carry their late-game dramatics into overtime.
It wasn’t so in the final 20 minutes, and Maryland and Rutgers settled for a draw.
“There’s no shame in a tie,” Cirovski said. “We’ll just move on to the next one.”