Maryland edges Syracuse in tight defensive match

Neither team could find the back of the net until the 56th minute, when Maryland's Dan Metzger fired the winning goal for the Terrapins.

The Orange men's soccer team (9-5-1, 2-5-1 ACC) hosted No. 12 Maryland (7-3-5, 4-1-3 ACC) in a pivotal conference match-up Saturday. In the end, the Terrapins emerged with a narrow 1-0 victory, courtesy of UMD’s Dan Metzger.

Maryland possessed most of the ball in the opening moments of the game. The Terrapins were slightly more incisive in the final third than Syracuse as well, often catching the Orange’s defense flat-footed. Despite Maryland’s narrow edge, it was Stefanos Stamoulacatos who fired in the opening shot of the match. The Maryland defense was vigilant to the Syracuse midfielder’s effort however, and Stamoulacatos’ effort was harmlessly deflected wide.

Syracuse lacked a little bit of fluency. Maryland applied an intense pressing game that disrupted the Orange’s passing. Maryland’s pressing effectively nullified Syracuse wing-play as well, which has often been Syracuse most potent threat with the likes of Chris Nanco and Oyvind Alseth. With the breakdown in the build-up play, Syracuse’s top-scorer Emil Ekblom (nine goals) was starved of much service. In the moments when he did manage to latch onto a pass, the Orange striker was quickly shut down by Maryland’s defense, with Mickey Ambrose always present to snuff out the danger.

“I think I dropped too many balls tonight, so I’m disappointed about that,” Ekblom said. “I have to look at myself and improve my movement to help them [my teammates] find me more easily.”

The first half ended pretty evenly. It was a poor spectacle for the neutrals however. Most of the game was stretched, with both teams playing a very direct style. There was a great deal of physicality in the contest as well, which led to numerous fouls that further interrupted any chance of fluency and rhythm.

In the second half, Maryland flew out of the starting blocks. The Terrapins quickly created a number of dangerous situations and had Syracuse immediately on the back-foot. The best of which came when Sunny Jane found himself with tons of space inside the Syracuse penalty area. However, he failed to find the target, heading the cross well wide of the mark.

Maryland did manage to capitalize on its good spell,though. The Terrapins broke down the wing on the right and whipped in a low cross. Maryland’s first attempt was blocked, but Metzger pounced on the loose ball and curled in an accurate left-footed shot past SU goalkeeper Alex Bono in the 56th minute.

The goal seemed to revive the Orange a little. There was still some discomfort in their build-up play however, and so they failed to create many clean chances.

“We played a different formation tonight than we are used to,” Oyvind Alseth said. “I think the reason we struggled to play out from the back was also that we were under constant pressure from Maryland. They stood up every time and made it hard for us.” 

Most of the Orange’s best play came in the final moments of the game as they pushed for the equalizer. A free kick from Alseth found Nick Perea at the far post. Perea’s glancing header eluded Keith Cardona, Maryland’s goalkeeper, but only to crash against the upright. In the dying moments of the game, Nanco found a bit of space at the top of the box and unleashed a powerful drive. Nanco’s shot in the 87th minute seemed goal-bound, but only until Cardona acrobatically stretched to deny the Orange the equalizer.

Syracuse’s coach, Ian McIntyre, did emphasize his team’s great effort despite the narrow defeat. “That was one of the better performances that I have had as a coach here at Syracuse,” McIntyre said. “We are frustrated we didn’t come out with a point; well that is probably a good sign.”

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