Terps men's soccer's struggles continue in 1-0 loss to No. 16 Michigan State

  • Alex Crognale (2) leaps for a header against Michigan State in the Terps' 1-0 loss Friday at Ludwig Field.
Alex Crognale (2) leaps for a header against Michigan State… (TJ Root / Maryland Athletics…)
September 19, 2014|By Don Markus | The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — Neither a festive crowd of an announced 6,000-plus at Ludwig Field nor the first Big Ten Conference home game against a nationally ranked opponent could awaken the slow-starting Maryland men's soccer team from its season-long scoring slumber Friday night.

After falling behind 16th-ranked Michigan State in the first nine minutes, the suddenly unranked Terps had a few legitimate chances to find the net. A header hit the post in the first half, and a last-ditch header was cleared off the goal line by a Spartans defender with under a minute to go.

Though Maryland outplayed the Spartans (4-1-1) in the second half and outshot them 8-2 for the game, Michigan State midfielder Jason Stacy's early goal held up in a 1-0 Terps loss.

The defeat continued an early-season trend for Maryland (1-3-2), which is unranked for the first time in at least a decade and is off to its worst start since 1993, when coach Sasho Cirovski's first team lost four of its first five games.

"It was a tough loss to take. Michigan State's not a team you want to give a goal too," Cirovski said after the Terps were shut out for third time this year. Maryland had gone three years having scored at least a goal in every game. "I thought if we played a great second half, if we had played with that quality in the first half, we would have had a few more chances to score."

Said Michigan State coach Damon Rensing: "We put huge emphasis on winning the conference or the value of the Big Ten. If you can get a road game anywhere, let alone at Ludwig Field, which is a tough place to play, it's a big win."

After nearly tying the score at 1 late in the first half when a corner kick was headed off the right post by 6-foot-5 sophomore defender Alex Crognale, Maryland appeared to finally score in the final minute. Junior defender Mikey Ambrose had a point-blank header off a cross by senior defender Jereme Raley, but defender Zach Carroll headed it away at the goal line.

"You have to credit their player who cleared the ball off their goal line. That was a great play. We did everything we could," Cirovski said of the final opportunity, a play that begun with goalkeeper Zack Steffen faking a long free kick and finding Raley in space. "I saw a lot of great things in the second half. It's not the Maryland way. We're a proactive team that starts well. We have to correct that."

Cirvoski juggled his starting lineup, particularly up front, where he used five forwards in the first half, including Raley. Though Cirovski went to a more settled lineup in the second half, the Terps failed to get past a Spartans team that packed its players into the defensive end late in the match.

"I think we've played so many guys up there [at forward], whether because of injuries or form, that we haven't been able to find any rhythm," Cirovski said. "The spacing and timing of the players isn't there. I thought, at this point, we'd have a little bit more of stronger relationships on the field. We just don't."

A team looking to replace its three top scorers, including two-time Hermann Trophy winner Patrick Mullins, has struggled to find anyone to step into that role. Freshman striker George Campbell (McDonogh), the team's top recruit, came off the bench Friday after starting the first five games.

"We're trying to score goals and we're learning new positions for different players, and we're going to have to figure out ways to put some goals in the back of the net," Ambrose said.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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