There is an old soccer adage that a wet field is often the great equalizer, favoring teams that play a more grind-it-out style over those that are more offensively gifted.
On a night when the pitch at Ludwig Field turned into a 110-yard Slip 'N Slide, high-scoring, top-ranked Maryland was slowed by a steady first-half downpour and No. 2 North Carolina, the nation's top defensive team. But when the Terps secured a 1-0 victory in overtime, it turned the announced crowd of 7,340 from soggy to celebratory.
Schillo Tshuma, a freshman midfielder who grew up in Zimbabwe before going to high school in Northern Virginia, redirected a shot by leading scorer Patrick Mullins in the 99th minute to give Maryland (13-0-1, 5-0 in the ACC) its 12th straight victory. The Terps, who came into Friday's game as the nation's co-leaders in goals per game, are off to the school's best start since Maryland went 14-0-1 in 1968 and won the NCAA championship.
Tshuma's goal helped him forget being the near-goat. His foul in the box against Robby Lovejoy in the 89th minute turned into a penalty shot for the North Carolina forward, but it was stopped by Maryland sophomore goalkeeper Keith Cardona, who also gobbled up a subsequent rebound blast from Verneri Valima.
A 25-yard shot by Mullins in the 90th minute skidded off the right post, sending the game into overtime.
"It's a great win. We had to make plays in this game. Keith Cardona makes a huge save — they could have stole it from us there," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. "We played a great first half, as good as you can play against Carolina without scoring. I think they're a great team, they're hard to penetrate, hard to score [against], we created a lot of chances. Under the conditions, I thought we played a great game. This is everything you want from a 1-2 game."
It nearly turned out to be a case of the team that dominated for much of the game losing in the end. After outshooting the Tar Heels 7-1 in the first half (and eventually 16-6 for the game), Cardona found himself staring at Lovejoy, who had scored four game-winners in his career but has missed most of this season after undergoing hip surgery.
"Sasho always says, the longer you keep teams in it, the more confidence they get and the more they can bite you in the end," said Cardona, who didn't even touch a ball in the first 20 minutes and hadn't faced a penalty shot all season. "It's a chaotic sport. We can outplay them, own the ball, own the game and if they finish their chances, they got the game."
Asked what his strategy was on the penalty kick that prevented North Carolina (11-2, 4-1-1) from taking the lead, the 6-foot-4 Cardona said, "Guess right. ... .There's a lot of emotion going into it. I had made a bad play right before that, and I had to turn the page. Thank God I made two good saves and we stayed in there."
Tschuma, off to an impressive start with six goals and three game-winners, felt pretty much the same way after his clear foul on Lovejoy led to the penalty kick.
"When I committed that [foul for a] PK, I felt like everything just stopped," Tschuma said. "Keith is a very good goalkeeper, so after the save I felt like a little bit relieved. [Senior] John Stertzer came up to me and told me to stay in it and said there is more time to play. I got back into the game and thank God I scored the goal."
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