Rejuvenated from injuries and illnesses, rested from a much-needed week off, the top-ranked Maryland men’s soccer team hoped Sunday’s game against Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals would play out much differently than last week’s last-gasp struggle against the Wolverines.
It ended up being a near-replica.
Reserve midfielder George Campbell scored just under three minutes into the second sudden-death overtime period to lift Maryland to a 3-2 victory at Ludwig Field. The result extended the top-seeded Terrapins’ winning streak to 13 games and vaulted them into Friday’s semifinal against Michigan State.
“Moving on and advancing is the biggest thing,” Campbell said. “Obviously scoring the goal is huge, but I think just getting our team to the next round is the biggest thing for me.”
Circumstances leading into the Terrapins’ postseason opener were considerably more favorable than the dire scenario that faced them in the previous Sunday’s regular season finale in Ann Arbor, Mich. Several players were afflicted with food poisoning on the eve of that road trip, and key midfielder Amar Sejdic sat with a muscular injury. Senior defender Suli Dainkeh kept his team’s win streak intact that day with a goal deep into the second overtime.
Coming off a week’s rest, Sejdic and company returned to the lineup for Sunday’s rematch before 2,637 fans in College Park. The eighth-seeded Wolverines were less than 24 hours removed from a 2-1 first-round win over Rutgers. The weather was perfect. The players were energized.
The script was the same.
“Sometimes when you’re off for a week you just think it’s going to be a little bit easier,” Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Sometimes rest is rust.”
A fortuitous deflection put Maryland (16-0-2) ahead in the 30th minute. Gordon Wild looked to set up one of his teammates streaking into the box as he neared the end line, but the sophomore striker’s low cross clanged off the foot of Michigan defender Andre Morris and into the net.
Michigan (4-11-4) answered three minutes from halftime. Springfield, Va., native Lars Eckenrode rose up to nod a deep free kick back to Tyler Anderson, whose calm one-timer scooted into the far corner for the equalizer. Just 93 seconds later, Maryland senior defender Chris Odoi-Atsem burst down the right channel and weaved past two defenders in the box before feeding DJ Reeves for the easy go-ahead finish.
Michigan equalized again just over five minutes into the second half. Senior defender Rylee Woods’s high-arcing cross from the left wing found Francis Atuahene, who skied for an uncontested header that settled into the near corner from six yards.
Maryland poured on the pressure late, hitting the post twice during the final five minutes of regulation. Reeves looked to have broken through in the 86 minute, when his slow-roller trickled past Michigan goalkeeper Evan Louro before doinking off the woodwork.
Campbell finished off the visitors in overtime with a left-footed blast that crept past Braden Horton, another Springfield product who spelled an injured Louro in overtime.
“I’ve talked all year about us having another level that we seem to only show in moments of being tied or behind,” Cirovski said. “I will challenge my team to make sure we bring that from the first second on the rest of the year. We have no choice.”
A loss Sunday would not have affected the NCAA tournament standing of a Maryland team coming off its first unbeaten season in 48 years. The Terrapins are practically assured of a top seed as they seek their first national title since 2008.
“We’re getting tested a little bit, but we’re showing a lot of resiliency and a lot of fight in us,” Campbell said. “We’re finding ways to win.”