Leon Koehl was one of Maryland men’s soccer’s few bright spots during the first half of its game against Indiana.
The freshman played in the number 10 role, using the space in the midfield just behind the attacking line. Koehl shined in the 21st minute when he lined up a shot from distance and narrowly put it over the crossbar. His effort was just one of two first-half shots for the Terps.
Teammate Stefan Copetti said Koehl gives Maryland creativity high in the midfield.
“I feel like I’m a player who understands the game very well,” Koehl said earlier this season.
But in the second half, Koehl dropped deeper, playing in the defensive role he’s occupied for most of this season. Coach Sasho Cirovski made the switch to keep the Hoosiers off of the scoresheet and maintain Maryland’s fourth clean sheet of the season.
The move failed. Maryland conceded two goals in the match’s final 40 minutes and lost to Indiana, 2-1.
Koehl was caught between pressing and laying back. The freshman had to cover so much ground over the course of the match and left valuable space for the Hoosiers to exploit — open room they capitalized on.
Indiana struck first in the 54th minute.
Patrick McDonald launched a throw-in from the sideline all the way into the box. A group of three Maryland players in the box, including Koehl, had the opportunity to win a header and clear the ball.
But Koehl didn’t just lose the header — he failed to contest it.
The Maryland midfielder watched the ball’s flight and backed off as Jansen Miller jumped. Miller won the header and flicked the ball on to eventual goal scorer Alex Barger.
“Nobody’s scored on a long throw in all year. We did everything right, except this time, we didn’t win the first ball,” Cirovski said.
Koehl’s failure to compete for the ball in a defensive role cost the Terps. His over-exuberance while advancing into the attacking third also hurt Maryland later in the half.
The midfielder advanced past the midway stripe in the 83rd minute with his team searching for a game-winning goal after Copetti’s equalizer earlier in the half. Maryland goalie Mikah Seger booted a long free kick and the Terps pushed up the field.
But the Hoosiers won the ball back quickly and caught Koehl out of position. Indiana launched a long ball forward to Samuel Sarver, and he profited from the space Koehl vacated. He burst into the open space before dispatching a shot past Seger to restore Indiana’s lead, a margin they kept until the final whistle.
Koehl will be vital to a Maryland team entering the final week of the regular season. The Terps remain in contention for a Big Ten tournament spot. Ohio State, the team directly ahead of Maryland, will need to lose or draw to Michigan State on Tuesday and then lose to Maryland in both squads’ season finales.
When Koehl is playing well, his ability to assume multiple positions in the midfield helps the Terps fill voids in the middle of the pitch.
But his massive responsibilities also mean defensive lapses will have outsized impacts. They did against Indiana.