Friday, October 26, 2012


Thursday's edition of the Terrapin Club Weekly highlights John Stertzer as the Solomon Eye Associates' Terp of the Week.  I love Stertzer's game, particularly the consistent intensity with which he plays.  This season, regardless of the opponent, Stertzer seems to have approached every game as a platoon leader responsible for leading both by example and by voice.

It is perhaps fitting then that the single most vivid memory I will take away from his senior campaign comes from a poor Maryland showing against Lehigh Tuesday night.  Late in the match, after yet another offensive break came to nothing against a defense that should have been completely overrun (final tally, Maryland = 30 shots; Lehigh = 6).  Mikey Ambrose had made an overlapping run wide past Patrick Mullins on the left side.  Rather than drop the ball off to Ambrose in space -- without a defender anywhere close -- Mullins crossed into a tight space in front of the goal box hoping that a carom would find its way into the back of the net.  After Lehigh's second-half keeper Taylor Sulmonetti collected the pass, Maryland's players ran back while Stertzer briefly lit into Mullins for not rewarding the fullback for his run.  The passing moment was of no significant importance to the match and was an aberration for a team that rarely bickers on the field.  But it perfectly captured a game that was slipping away as several players seemed hellbent on showing that Lehigh could be dispatched by the conversion of extraordinary opportunities rather than a pedestrian display of superiority.

Mullins ended up scoring the game winning goal with around two and half minutes left in regulation.  John Stertzer assisted on that goal, which gave Patrick a brace for the match and double-digits for the season.  All's well that ends well.

Nevertheless, as professional scouts begin to consider how John Stertzer may or may not fit into their plans, I hope they will look for tape of the Lehigh match.  It shows a strength of character and commitment to competitive integrity that augur well for a career after college.     

Friday, October 19, 2012

What was that?

With my eldest in tow, I planned to spend a relaxing evening at Ludwig watching the Maryland women play Miami.  There were not going to be many more people at the stadium than for the Colgate game Tuesday, but the match was not ignored.  Athletic Director Kevin Anderson was there with his daughter.  President Wallace Loh showed up as well.

What everyone in attendance saw was ridiculous, an embarrassment to college athletics.

Miami features two players with local roots that both started in the defense -- Senior Ali Brennan (Columbia, Maryland) and Sophomore Maddie Simms (Bowie, Maryland) -- and both had considerable amounts of support in the stands.  That's not unusual.  There are often family and other partisans for the other side at games.  That's the way it should be.  Things went off the rails tonight, however, in part because of a complete lack of decorum from the otherwise welcome guests.

Abuse of the referees by the Miami supporters started early.  Maryland's fans on the same side didn't exactly react well and howls of complaint and derision erupted every time any foul was perceived.  The rancor in the stands -- focused on the referees -- fueled physical conflict on the field.  In the second half, Maryland's terrific forward Hayley Brock got hammered over and over and over again.  Good ball control and quick turns terrorized Miami's backline and the response, particularly from the Hurricanes' Blake Stockton, was to cut Hayley down.

The eventual breakdown was presaged by a moment late in the second half where Brock, struck down again outside the box, responded by getting up and kicking out at the face of an opponent that had also hit the ground.  No card.  No warning.  Just the referee and linesmen being berated by boorish men.

We were on the other side of the field, but it looked like Maddie Simms got a measure of revenge by kicking a ball hard into Brock when play had been stopped and Brock responded by landing a haymaker.  Bedlam.

Awful?  Yes.  But the lack of discipline by the players paled in comparison to the idiot dad who jumped over the fence to get in between the players.  Idiot may seem a strong word.  In this instance, an understatement.  When I finally shepherded my four-year old out of the stadium at the end of regulation -- as a mother screamed at Miami's fans "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!  NUMBER 27 IS MY DAUGHTER!" -- the same dad stood outside shouting that he shouldn't have been ejected because he "didn't go on to the field,"  he "only went on the sideline."


That there is one idiot -- an excitable, over-involved father -- in the stands was not remarkable.  That no one else within the pro-Miami faction shut him up or pulled him back was a total embarrassment.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Generation Adidas

I went to Ludwig last night expecting to see the depth of Maryland on display against Colgate.  Alex Shinsky got his first start in the midfield (tally me a big Alex Shinsky fan) and redshirt sophomore Marquez Fernandez replaced London Woodberry at center half. 

Things didn't exactly go well in the first half and had a Colgate goal not been waved off, it would have been full freak out mode at the break.

As substitutes, John Stertzer, Schillo Tshuma, Jereme Raley, Jordan Cyrus, Sunny Jane, and Patrick Mullins took control of the game in the second half. 

There were not a lot of people out for the match -- this will change Friday -- but for those that were there, Patrick Mullins demonstrated (conclusively) that he should be in play for a Generation Adidas offer.  Maybe he's stuck as a Home Grown product of the Chicago Fire.  If so, bummer.  If not, there is not much more he needs to do to establish himself as an elite professional prospect.

The night was cold.  The opponent was underwhelming.  Teammates were eschewing passes to open players in order to try and break down opponents for individual glory.  Mullins seemed unaffected.

Maybe it was because the Crew loudly heralded the two Deuce goals that sent the USMNT to the hexagon, but Mullins is the same height as Dempsey (6'1"), he has roughly the same build as Clint (~77 kg), and damned if his self-assured style of floating through a game terrorizing opponents doesn't seem like a fitting tribute to the best soccer player America's produced.

Mullins got an assist and a goal; Maryland got its 12th win. 

Bring on Mikey Lopez.

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Generation

Maryland's football campaign has been way, way more enjoyable than I anticipated.  The defense is loaded from front to back.  The offense was always going to have problems, but it is very charismatic.

Stefon Diggs may be better than advertised.  Kenneth Tate is back.  The Terps have won three games. Suddenly, I'm looking forward to Saturdays for reasons other than Charlton Atheltic.

There's probably a lot of interesting angles to cover about the game against Wake Forest, but with a day to reflect, one thing in particular stuck:  the play of Anthony Nixon.  The freshman from Pittsburgh was awarded a game ball for his special team play and Coach Edsall singled number 20 out for praise in his post-game comments.  From the stands, the only time I cracked open my Maryland Gameday program (featuring a profile of Mikey Ambrose and Dakota Edwards) during game action was to figure out the name of the kid playing flawless football in the secondary in the second half. 

Maryland is blooding a ridiculous number of freshmen.  The coaching staff has been forced to rely on young kids and remarkably many, like Nixon, are responding with aplomb.

On a related note, I've linked above to a couple of pieces from the Washington Post.  After spewing all that awful vile towards the Athletics Department and Coach Edsall last year, WaPo has pulled back and become a fun read.  All credit to young Alex Prewitt who is doing a terrific job covering Terrapin football this year.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

First Place

Following today's win over Wake Forest, Maryland is the only undefeated team in conference play in the Atlantic division of the ACC.

Beautiful day to be at Byrd.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Roll on, Maryland

We have lived in College Park for a decade now and, yet, the benefits of life in this little corner of Prince George's County continue to present themselves anew. 

Tonight, I walked our youngest over to Ludwig while our oldest accompanied her mom to a Friday night movie.  Enjoying a Maryland soccer game with a toddler is not new, but the number of other families -- including coaches from other athletics teams at the University -- that are now also doing so means that I can now get through a full ninety minutes.

Or maybe this is how it has always been.  Maybe there has always been an easy collegial vibe between administrators and athletes hanging out at soccer games (in addition to head coaches and athletes from other squads, President Wallace Loh was again on hand).  But for an athletics program that was hammered last season by everyone who deigned to opine on the Terrapins, it sure seems like building a community anchored in pride is not just a promotional slogan.

Based on the limited stolen glances I had of the game, it was a good night to be one of the 4,846 folks at Ludwig.  The game was tight, but Maryland kept its composure throughout.  The one-nil victory over the Wahoos was well-deserved.  It is just flat-out fun to watch Sunny Jane go.  He is kind of good.  Dan Metzger and John Stertzer were also very impressive tonight.  

For their part, Virginia never backed down.  The Cavaliers did not create a lot of offensive opportunities, but they still managed to absorb wave after wave after wave of rapid assaults.  Georgetown Prep alum and DC United Academy veteran Marcus Salandy-Defour, a true freshman, acquitted himself well for Virginia.  In fact, for a very young team -- five of the starting eleven were freshmen, four were sophomores and all three subs used were underclassmen -- they did not make many damaging mistakes.  

The only notably poor performance tonight came from the referee, Shane Moody.  I am no saint in the stands.  I have developed the terrible habit of screaming in frustration at poor calls made by refs.  But I have also refereed youth soccer games and blown numerous calls, so I rarely make note of any particular performance.  I have never actually bothered to learn the name of any referee from a college game prior to this evening.  But Mr. Moody, who has, I think, experience in the MLS and in the U.S. Open Cup, went way, way, way over the top in making a spectacle of his control of the match.  Moody did not render any notable bad decisions, but he did loudly convey disdain for Coach Cirovski's protests regarding some questionable offside flags raised by his assistant before theatrically flourishing a yellow card to the Maryland bench for complaining about a foul call.  In the stadium, Moody's exaggerated gesticulations looked ridiculous and seemed more a performance for the cameras than the game.

But that is only a very mild quibble for what was otherwise another great night of Maryland soccer.

Not every Maryland athlete was represented at Ludwig.  The women's basketball team was at the movies and, before leaving, were stopped by a little girl and her family who are eager for the season to start.