COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland’s dream of winning three men’s soccer trophies in one season was destroyed in one of the most shocking comebacks in college sports. Providence, who was down 4-1 with 35 minutes left in the game, scored four unanswered goals, including a game-winning corner kick “Olimpico” goal with less than […]
COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland’s dream of winning three men’s soccer trophies in one season was destroyed in one of the most shocking comebacks in college sports.
Providence, who was down 4-1 with 35 minutes left in the game, scored four unanswered goals, including a game-winning corner kick “Olimpico” goal with less than 10 minutes remaining to defeat the top ranked Terrapins, 5-4, ending Maryland’s chance at winning their first National Championship since 2008.
“This one is hard to process,” Maryland Head Coach Sasho Cirovski said. “It’s almost too unimaginable, too unbelievable to see us imploded right before your own eyes.”
Joao Serrano, a freshman from Evora, Portugal, did not score a goal the entire season for Providence. However, his bending, left-footed corner kick smacked the right goal post before crashing into the net, silencing the stunned crowd of 3,804 at Ludwig Field.
“I think when you are down 4-1 against a team like Maryland, you don’t expect to tie it up 4-4 in five minutes,” Friars midfielder Julian Gressel said. “But we came back. We (felt) we could do this and believed ourselves and everyone was a part of it.”
It is the first time since losing to Campbell 6-3 on Oct. 11, 1993, (Cirovski’s first season), in which Maryland allowed five or more goals at home to a non-divisional opponent. Known for their late-game heroics and six overtime victories this season, the Terps were unable to kill off the opponents they outshot 18 to 13.
“I’m just shocked and just gutted by the fact that a Maryland soccer team gave up five goals at home,” Cirovski said. “It’s unfathomable and I have to take full responsibility somehow. I am the coach of this team and they gave up five goals. And that is going to haunt me for a long time.”
Maryland (18-1-3), the overall No. 1 in the NCAA tournament and the last undefeated team in the nation, had just claimed their second trophy of the season by defeating Wisconsin, 2-1, in the 2016 Big Ten Men’s Soccer Championship on Nov. 13. However, its first loss of the year came at the worst time, during the national tournament and against a team who had only scored 24 goals this season.
However, Providence (14-6), who defeated Delaware 2-0 in the first round on Nov. 17, exposed Maryland’s issues with defending counterattacks early in the first half. Down a goal early after Gordon Wild’s booming left-footed 35-yard free kick goal, Gressell broke through the defense and snuck in a low shot past goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier to tie the game at one.
Maryland’s Amar Sejdic would reclaim the lead after a 40-yard free kick landed into the net midway through the second half. His shot received some help from the wind as the ball swirled, changing direction midflight, and suddenly dropped down into goalkeeper Colin Miller’s goal. Before kickoff, College Park was placed under a wind advisory as gusts measured over 19 miles per hour.
Maryland scored two goals within the first nine minutes of the second half, pushing its lead to 4-1. Sejdic scored his second goal of the game as he recovered a loose ball after two failed clearances. Midfielder Eryk Williamson would slam the fourth goal of the game, almost assuring Maryland the victory.
“I think a lot of people had written us off at that point,” Providence Head Coach Craig Stewart said. “They rose to the challenge and showed tremendous grit, fight, whatever you would like to call it. That is what this team is about.”
With less than 25 minutes remaining, the Friars fought back, scoring two goals in 36 seconds. Gressel scored his second of the game after he converted a rebound of his initial shot into a goal. Moments later, defender Nick Sailor volleyed a 20-yard twisting shot from the NCAA logo for Providence’s third goal.
Maryland outshot its opponents 7-2 in the last 20 minutes of the game, but could not score and hold off the relentless pressure whenever Providence attacked forward. Defender Steven Kilday scored the tying goal from outside the Maryland penalty area with less than 16 minutes left in regulation.
“I thought we had control of the game with 25 minutes left,” Sejdic said. “We should have controlled the ball a little better but everyone could feel the momentum change and it was a game that was hard to believe.”