Everyone at Ludwig this afternoon was treated to a fantastic soccer game. From Herrick's equalizer on, I was perched on the edge of my seat.
It is little solace to observe that Maryland was the better side when Michigan is the team that advanced in the tournament and the Terps' season is over. But Maryland was the better side and outside of a ten to fifteen minute stretch after the restart, Maryland was the dominant team. An inability to convert scoring opportunities -- including several absolute sitters -- doomed Maryland's title hopes.
There are two reasons I walked out of the stadium happy.
Michigan changed the entire complexion of the game at the restart with Greg Young on the bench with an apparent injury and Billy Cortes filling in at right back. The Terps' backline got very shaky and Michigan quickly equalized. Enter London Woodberry. Although he certainly wasn't crisp and Michigan scored two more with him in the game, Woodberry is Maryland's best option at right back and it was great to see him back on the field, particularly with the game on the line. Cirovski showed confidence in Woodberry in an essential game against a dangerous opponent and hopefully that means that he'll be back in the fold for next season.
Separately, we've probably seen the majority of Jason Herrick's collegiate games and, yet, despite the long history, I did not anticipate how good of a player he would become. With Townsend, Mullins, Stertzer, and Cortes having off games, Herrick was Maryland's most dangerous attacking player and offensive creator. His turns were fantastic, as were his passes -- including a beautifully weighted ball to a wide-open Townsend that Casey whiffed on. He had an amazing game in terms of holding the ball up and, at one point, showed off jaw-dropping juggling skills while getting pressured by a Wolverine center back (as an aside, I walked into Ludwig expecting to be wowed by Michigan's attacking players but walked out most impressed by Kofi Opare a big, physical underclassmen who anchored the back line).
Herrick may not get as much attention as Ethan White, Zac MacMath, or Casey Townsend, but he was the best player on the field today in an intense game. Herrick does not hide; he's strong and he welcomes physical challenges from the opposition. His physical attributes, however, unfairly distract from his technical prowess. Herrick is an MLS-ready center forward and whatever team decides to spend a draft pick on him should be in for a pleasant surprise at just how good a player they've lucked into.