A significant student turnout for Maryland's home opener -- students composed the vast majority of the 4,451 in attendance -- made Ludwig field the place to be last night. Not 4,450 in attendance, but 4,451, thanks to Ben Olsen, taking in the game sans tie and smartly attired in a plain white t-shirt. To the extent D.C. United's head coach stuck around for the full match, he was treated to a spectacle.
Michigan State is a well-organized team and despite being under assault by the Terps for much of the game never cracked under pressure. In every statistical category, save the one that matters, Maryland dominated the game. The Terps spent much of the game down two goals and unable to take advantage of multiple opportunities. Jason Herrick, Matt Kassel, Taylor Kemp, and Billy Cortes had tough games. Kemp and Cortes made up a left side that didn't threaten much; at the end of regular time, Maryland had won eleven corners, of which only one was hit into the box with any real threat by Kassel (although his free kick at the end of the game from the left side outside of the box gave the Terps a very brief lead); and Herrick's opportunities on goal were not put on frame and did not trouble MSU's keeper.
The performances of others were a bit more uneven. Karou Forbess eschews the easy pass for cheeky spins and redirections. Few hit their target, but when Forbess connects -- like when his scissor kick from the top of the box knotted the game at two -- it is gorgeous. Doug Rodkey was generally stable although he surrendered possession unnecessarily from poorly weighted balls from the middle. Rodkey got Maryland back into the game with a neat turn that earned a penalty (converted by Kassel) for the Terps' first goal. Sunny Jane's introduction in the first half immediately ratcheted up Maryland's attack as he scythed through a solid line. Jane's magic and touch deserted him in the second half and Sunny's impact was more negative than positive towards the end. Casey Townsend, on the other hand, flipped the other way and had an amazing second half. Townsend's control and decision-making on the ball up front after the break was damn near perfect.
Ethan White was dominant in the back and he absorbed a lot of pressure when John Stretzer was introduced for Greg Young in the second half. White distributes well and is the locus point for much of the attacks built from the back on the floor. On the right side, Alex Lee had a solid game, completing his impressive come back from his injury last season. Two late subs made impressive marks on the game -- London Woodberry provided a quick outlet for Zac MacMath and reversed the Spartans' counterattacks immediately; Matt Oduaran's steal of the ball at the restart following Maryland's equalizer and consequent run through MSU's defense is what set up the Terps' third goal.
Despite the surprising and disappointing setback to start the season, I continue to believe this is a very good side and that the disparate pieces will fall together sooner rather than later. There is a lot of talent on display on the field and I imagine that Northeastern will have difficulty parrying Maryland's assaults on Sunday night.
My comments above are shaded a bit by missing much of the first half because of constant wincing at the inane, profanity-laced taunts of Maryland students. I love seeing so many students out to support their team, but it is quite remarkable that virtually all of the Crew's cheers and chants are negative towards the other team rather then supportive of their team. When the PA declared that fans should consider taking a group to the "greatest fan environment in college soccer," my wife spit out her soda. As much as I want Maryland to do well, I can admit to taking some measure of pleasure from watching the abuse from some craven Maryland students aimed towards the handful of Spartans' partisans in the stands after the Terps' third goal repaid immediately by MSU's equalizer.
On this point, I am and will continue to be a broken record: the University needs to do something to change the culture of sporting events at the school. Both the negativity and the front-running ("Well, we're down two goals, so we will be leaving soon") reflect poorly on the university and unfairly detract from the substantial number of students that come out to back their teams and enjoy a couple of hours away from their studies.