As Stefan Copetti gained possession near the corner flag late in the second half with Maryland men’s soccer down a goal, his only thought was to cross the ball into the Virginia penalty area.
But when Copetti’s cross arrived in the penalty box, no Maryland player was there to attack it. Virginia goalie Holden Brown gathered the cross with ease as another opportunity passed the Terps by.
A plethora of defensive miscues and missed opportunities plagued Maryland (1-2-1) against local rivals Virginia (3-1) in a 2-1 defeat in Charlottesville Monday night.
The Terps came into Monday’s match with two shutouts in their opening three games, but any hope of a clean sheet against the Cavaliers would quickly come to an end in a back-and-forth first half. The battle for most of the opening 45 minutes was down both sidelines, with both sides possessing speedy wingers that created numerous opportunities.
And it was Virginia’s pace that caused Maryland’s backline problems in the early goings.
Mouhameth Thiam raced down the left sideline and into the penalty box before taking a shot that was deflected over the end line for a Cavalier corner. Virginia played the ensuing corner kick short instead of crossing the ball into the box and was awarded a penalty when Alex Nitzl was called for a foul inside the box.
Cavaliers captain Leo Afonso confidently slotted his penalty kick into the right corner, giving Virginia the early lead in the 13th minute.
Then, Maryland took advantage of its own speed out wide.
Kimani Stewart-Baynes outmuscled Paul Wiese in a one-on-one battle after a long pass was played toward the corner flag. The freshman took one touch before firing in a cross into the Virginia box.
Stefan Copetti rose highest above Virginia defenders, knocking a powerful header past Holden Brown and into the back of the net to tie the game just 43 seconds after Virginia opened the scoring.
“Confidence wise, getting that goal is definitely a boost for me,” Copetti said.
But more issues plagued Maryland on the flanks. Midfielder Leon Koehl played a simple pass to Kento Abe, who took too heavy of a touch as Thiam closed him down. The Virginia midfielder pounced on Abe’s mistake, racing in one-on-one with goalkeeper Mikah Seger with William Kulvik retreating to close him down.
The forward took one last touch to his left before placing his shot over the outstretched arm of Seger, restoring a Virginia lead that the Cavaliers would take into halftime.
After the Terps staved off two Afonso chances at the beginning of the second half, Stewart-Baynes came close to leveling the score. The freshman made two step-over moves in the box to create separation from two Virginia defenders before unleashing a shot on frame that looked destined for the back of the net.
But a deflection turned Stewart-Baynes’ strike onto the post as Maryland still pressed for the equalizer.
The Terps’ best chance to do so in the second half came 12 yards from goal, when Maryland was awarded a penalty kick after a Virginia handball was called in the box.
Luke van Heukelum stepped up from the spot and sent his shot to the keeper’s right, but the forward failed to place it far enough to the side of the net. Brown reached two hands out to deny the freshman from tying the game, marking Maryland’s second miss from the penalty spot in as many games.
“We lost our penalty kick taker from last year, and we’re still trying to search to find the right person to step up in that moment,” Cirovski said.
With the minutes dwindling, the Terps had one last effort on goal.
After a cross was dealt with initially by the Virginia back line, the ball fell to Luca Costabile who positioned himself just outside the penalty box. He hit the half-volley first time and low toward the corner, but Virginia made one last block to preserve its lead.
The Cavaliers would see out the remaining minutes of the game and earn their first win over the Terps since 2019.
“Every game is an opportunity to learn, and we’ll learn from this,” Copetti said.