Luke van Heukelum stood inside the six-yard box as a Max Riley shot landed at his feet.
All the forward needed to do to break Maryland men’s soccer’s scoreless streak and give it an early lead was tap the shot into a vacant goal. But van Heukelum fell backward as he shot, his off-balance attempt going inches wide of the post.
The miss marked another missed goal-scoring opportunity for the Terps, who failed to convert numerous chances in front of goal in a 2-0 home loss to No. 16 Northwestern.
“Very encouraged by the effort, the quality, the chances that we created, the way that we played,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “But ultimately they made the one really nice goal off of our turnover in the first half and then the second … was a very poor turnover.”
Friday night marked Maryland’s third straight game without a goal and its sixth straight without a win. The Terps went the entire month of September without a win and scored just three goals in six games.
Weyman racked up seven saves on 15 Maryland shots. The Terps struck the goal frame three times in yet another frustrating outing that drops them to last in the Big Ten.
Maryland (1-5-2, 0-3-1) lined up in a 4-4-2 formation to begin the match, a switch from the 4-3-3 that it normally uses. Max Riley and Luke van Heukelum led the line up top, a change from just one central forward found in the 4-3-3 formation.
Cirovski employed a similar formation in his team’s draw against Michigan, one of the only two games this year where the Terps have scored more than one goal.
That switch garnered multiple early chances for the Terps in the first 25 minutes. Alex Nitzl almost struck seven minutes in.
The Terps won the ball high up the pitch. Nitzl sprinted towards goal and received the ball in stride. Northwestern goalkeeper Jackson Weyman backpedaled toward his goal line just as the defender put his laces through the ball from distance.
The midfielder’s shot kept rising on its flight toward goal, ultimately bouncing off the top of the crossbar before going behind the goal for a goal kick.
Northwestern (8-0-2, 2-0-1) was penalized for a handball later in the first half, giving Maryland a free kick in the attacking third. Leon Koehl swung a cross into the box that quickly created havoc for the Wildcats’ defense.
Riley, standing at the top of the box as the ball arrived, sent a one-time effort on goal after a failed Northwestern clearance. Weyman reacted quickly in goal to deny Riley, but spilled the shot inside the six-yard box — that was when van Heukelum missed the open net.
“The keeper made three or four point blank saves,” Cirovski said. “Those will start going in at some point.”
Northwestern’s first dangerous response came near the final 10 minutes of the half. Collin McCamy whipped in a corner for the Wildcats that was redirected on goal.
Brian St. Martin, making his first start of the season, backtracked all the way to the goal line and stuck out his leg to clear the shot off the line.
Mikah Seger saved Northwestern’s follow-up effort, ending the threat.
McCamy, undeterred, created one more shot in the waning minutes of the first half that punished the Terps.
The Northwestern midfielder ran into open space at the top of the Maryland box. With time, he unleashed a powerful one-time strike that curled into the upper corner to give the visitors the lead at the half.
Maryland’s back line has committed multiple sloppy miscues in conference play. Another mistake gifted Northwestern its second goal of the match.
Seger passed a ball directly to a Northwestern player in the middle of the field. The Wildcats progressed up the field as Jason Gajadhar found a pocket of space just outside the penalty area.
“It was similar to the Penn State game. It’s inexcusable,” Cirovski said. “… It’s something that happens with young goalkeepers. Mikah is very talented, we all believe in him. I don’t think you’ll ever see him do that again.”
He passed to Christopher Thaggard, who entered the box and fired a shot past Seger to put Northwestern ahead by two. The Wildcats maintained that advantage throughout the second half to earn the road victory.
“At the end of the day … if you want to win a game, you got to score goals,” Nitzl said.