Stephen Annor Gyamfi darted toward the Maryland goal. His Virginia teammate, Axel Ahlander, laid a perfectly weighted through pass to the forward. Gyamfi accelerated through the right side of Maryland men’s soccer’s back line, taking one touch to blow past Terps’ defender Bjarne Thiesen before bearing down on goal.
Gyamfi’s run ended in a Virginia shot that sailed wide of Maryland’s net.
Less than 10 minutes into Monday’s match, the Cavaliers’ speed had already caused problems for the Terps. That issue persisted for the full 90 minutes. Maryland felt the impact of a quick turnaround from Friday’s physical draw against Wake Forest and a hot, humid evening in Charlottesville.
Coach Sasho Cirovski’s team gave up a season-high two goals in its second loss of the year after allowing one goal in its first three contests combined.
“This is a game where we looked very heavy legged, very tired,” Cirovski said. “With the heat, I think we really struggled with our legs today.”
Virginia’s first goal came off a penalty, which the team won on a buildup play that showcased its pace. Attacker Mouhameth Thiam pounced on a misplaced pass from Maryland goalie Mikah Seger, racing down the left side of the field to the endline.
His shot was blocked and Virginia earned a corner. Instead of crossing it into the Maryland box, the Cavaliers used a series of short passes to open up the Terps’ back line. Alex Nitzl ultimately fouled Umberto Pelà in the box for a penalty.
Virginia’s speed allowed it to exploit Maryland’s aggression. Cirovski trusts his defense, especially his fullbacks, to join the attack and get involved higher up in the pitch. He refers to his two returning outside backs, Kento Abe and Luca Costabile, as “end line to end line players,” and credits the duo for helping in the attacking third of the field.
But a critical error from Abe led to Virginia’s second goal — the eventual game winner — on Monday.
Maryland tied the match after Stefan Copetti headed in a Kimani Stewart-Baynes. But Abe helped Virginia surge ahead.
Terps midfielder Leon Koehl tried to switch the field of play with a short pass to Abe. The fullback took too heavy of a touch and Thiam went for the misplaced ball. He quickly nabbed possession and started a rapid Cavaliers counterattack.
Thiam dashed into the Maryland box as William Kulvik tracked back for Abe, who was left out of position. Once again, the Cavaliers proved too fast for the Terps’ defense as Thiam laced a shot past Seger to restore Virginia’s lead.
Virginia forced the Terps’ goalkeeper into five saves as the team’s quick attack plagued Cirovski’s squad. As conference play nears — Maryland plays Michigan on Sept. 14 — the coach knows his squad will have to improve against teams that play a similar breakneck style to keep results like Monday’s from becoming commonplace.
“That was not the kind of performance that we need to have on the road,” Cirovski said.