Monday, September 7, 2009

Soggy Night

Two things were guaranteed following Maryland's loss to UCLA on Friday night: (1) attendance was going to drop dramatically (from 6,718 to 3,710); and (2) Sasho Cirovski would get a more urgent performance from his players.

I paid a great deal more attention to individual players last night and I really, really like the Terps' new backline. Outside of Kevin Tangney, the 6' 2" red-shirt senior, Maryland's back four is not particularly physically imposing. The other starting center back, freshman Ethan White is 5' 11", and the two fullbacks, sophomore Alex Lee and freshman Taylor Kemp are 5' 10" and 5' 11", respectively. But they are very disciplined and very good. While sophomore defensive midfielder Matt Kassel may have started the season as the best pro prospect on the roster, former DC United Academy member Ethan White has been impressive.

The defense was supposed to be Maryland's biggest weakness going into this season, but the question posed by the first two games is how Maryland will score. Our impeccable timing meant that we walked into the stadium just in time to see sophomore Karou Forbess make a good run on the left and cross to an unseen player (Jason Herrick) for the Terps' first official goal of the season and we walked out of the stadium at the end of regular time -- thoroughly waterlogged -- prior to Herrick completing his brace and winning Maryland's first game of the season.

For the portions in between, when we were comfortably seated in the stands, although Maryland dominated offensively, it never looked like the Terps seriously threatened to score. The dominance is reflected in the statistics (Maryland forced David Bingham to make eight saves on 19 shots; MacMath, in comparison, recorded two saves on seven shots), just as it was on Friday against UCLA (Brian Perk made 10 saves on 19 shots, while MacMath only made one save on UCLA's seven shots). Of those 38 attempts on goal, few seemed to pose any real questions for the opposing keeper. Maryland also hasn't been that impressive on set pieces. Senior Drew Yates is particularly adept at drawing fouls just north of the goal box, but the Terps have not been able to do much with the ensuing free kicks in a dangerous area.

Cal equalized on a hard low shot that slipped through MacMath's hands in the middle of a downpour. Maryland, for its part, did not respond with long shots that would similarly challenge Bingham. Instead, Maryland again became unnerved in the second half and, despite dominating in the midfield, started rashly booting hopeful balls up in the hopes that Herrick, Casey Townsend, or sub Billy Cortes (who played well) could bring the ball down and convert. Abandoning the possession game seemed to be a reaction to frustration with an inability to capitalize on the good play after Herrick's goal in the fourth minute. That said, Maryland was better last night than Friday and, with considerable room for improvement, the best is yet to come.

Two other notes: first, for a massive roster, Cirovski uses remarkably few subs. In the game against UCLA on Friday, Sasho introduced four subs: freshman Widner Saint Cyr; junior Billy Cortes; freshman London Woodberry; and freshman John Stertzer. UCLA used five. Last night, none of the three freshman played and Maryland only used two subs: Billy Cortes and sophomore Matt Oduaran. Cal, in contrast, used seven (and got their goal from freshman sub Anthony Salciccia). Don't know what this means, but one conclusion that can be drawn is that the coaching staff has also been reasonably pleased by what they've seen from the back four.

Second, I was not paying a whole lot of attention to Cal's players, but it was hard to miss the senior (?) transfer Jeff Cosgriff in the middle of Cal's team. Cosgriff was the biggest player on the field (6'4") and commanded attention throughout the game. Cosgriff was also noticeable due to a rough foul that led to the issuance of a yellow card in the first half. Red-shirt junior Hector Jimenez has assisted on all three goals of Cal's season thus far and is clearly the heart of the team, but it will be interesting to see how Cosgriff fares as he gets more time playing with the rest of the squad.

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