Maryland travelled to the home of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in an attempt to solidify their new number one ranking. Although NC State would not want to do any favors to their in-state rival North Carolina by causing Maryland to stumble, they would look to try and move into the top 10 and start making sure that their season would not die at the end of the regular season.
NC State opened the scoring via the left-foot of Junior Alex Martinez after he executed a smooth sequence of step-overs in the box before slotting home via the near post. Martinez is now tied for the most goals in Division I with six after that opening goal. Maryland almost drew level immediately afterwards by working a pretty one-two combination at the edge of the box but no goal came after a sweet save by NC State’s Fabian Otte.
The game was back and forth for the entirety of the first half with NC State’s student section giving the stadium an impressive atmosphere. NC State seemed able to maintain possession a little easier than Maryland, but Maryland’s attacks looked a little more dangerous. These roles would get flipped every ten minutes or so, but Maryland was eventually able to even the score off of a corner with four minutes left in the first half when Senior Jake Pace was able to rise above the pack and head into the back of the net. The half continued to be somewhat frantic up until the whistle blew with both teams heading into the locker room with a 1-1 score to be contested in what promised to be an interesting second half.
Maryland started the second half with some intense attacking and capitalized on a few defensive errors after a weak cross from the left wing was tapped home causing them to quickly move into the lead in the 43rd minute. Maryland was preventing NC State from getting any possession and the only way that NC State could snag an attack was via a fast break. Maryland definitely looked the fresher team coming out of the break and they nearly made it 3-1 in the 39th minute with a very close offside call disallowing a possible Maryland goal.
Things were getting a little frantic and snippy as we approached a half-hour left to play and the attacks became very dependent on fast breaks for both sides. Then on a long throw in the thirtieth minute, the referee saw some type of infraction and awarded a penalty. Senior John Stursor stepped up and blasted it down the middle giving Maryland a 3-1 lead. Long throws are relatively new to the game and it seems to be causing serious issues in the college game when it is used effectively.
Challenges started flying in from both teams and tempers started to flare in reaction to the controversial penalty. Then, in the 27th minute, Alex Martinez got tripped up in the box and the referee was quick to give the penalty in order to even out his previous call. Martinez then stepped up and buried the penalty in order to bring the score to 3-2 and climb atop the scoring charts in Div. I. The decision just heightened the atmosphere and the challenges still flew in late and heavy.
The strange thing about the game is that instead of NC State’s second goal seeming to have them rushing to grab an equalizer, it saw Maryland start to maintain control and it looked like NC State was more interested inflicting pain than snagging a point. I have not seen a game get this physical so far in the college season, but the proximity of the two schools and the fact that they both play in the always competitive ACC may have played a big role.
The last 15 minutes saw both teams beginning to tire and Maryland’s possession start to shine through. Even Alex Martinez, NC State’s star man, started looking tired and made a few terrible touches during some attacking moves. The surprising thing was that, despite Maryland picking up several yellow cards already; it took until the final ten minutes for NC State to snag their first yellow.
NC State did fashion a few last minute attacks, but none of them resulted in a legitimate shot on goal. Maryland will feel they earned this victory and they will also feel that they solidified their #1 spot. They looked good in possession and I already have my calendar marked for when Maryland takes on North Carolina later in October. If Maryland is able to roll through the ACC, they will be heavy favorites to win the College Cup.
Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com
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