Sunday, November 25, 2012

"It's Sunny Jane Time!"

With about half an hour left in the match against Coastal Carolina, Mikias Eticha collected a loose ball on the right side of the goal box and flipped it to his left to an awaiting Sunny Jane.  At the upper left-hand corner of the box, Sunny had one defender between him and the keeper, Mark Petrus, a transfer from George Mason.  As Jane brought the ball down, kids in our section shouted "It's Sunny Jane Time!"  Sunny beat the defender off the dribble and then drilled a grass cutter beyond Petrus's reach off the far post effectively ending the game.

Maryland's supporters have been waiting for it to be Sunny Jane time for much of the season.  It was tonight.  Maryland's first goal came twelve minutes in off of superb wing play by Jane after he sent a fantastic cross that Eticha notched home.  Four minutes after Sunny scored, he, in turn, enjoyed the fruits of the incredible individual effort of Christiano Francois.  Francois refused to give up on a ball being shepherded over the end line by a Chanticleer defender, stole it, and then slotted it back to Jane for the brace.

In a little over an hour on the field, Jane terrorized Coastal Carolina's wings.  He wasn't the only one.  Maryland's smaller, faster players ran circles around the Chanticleer's behemoths.  Maryland's active roster features one outfield player listed at 200 pounds, Jake Pace.  Coastal Carolina has three in its starting lineup: both centerbacks, Uchenna Uzo and Kjartan Sigurdsson, and their central midfielder playmaker, Pedro Ribeiro.  The two sophomores, Uzo and Sigurdsson, along with the 6'0", 182 lb. freshman Jhamie Hyde, were often left trying to snuff out runs made by Jane, Francois, Eticha, and Schillo Tshuma on their own.  All three held their own, but their margin for error was slight and, given the circumstances, holding Maryland to five goals was a testament to their competence.

The one blemish for Maryland came off a poor back pass from Dan Metzger to London Woodberry that led to Woodberry losing possession and Ashton Bennett drill home a long-range goal past Cardona.  Bennett made the most of limited offensive opportunities and it was easy to see why he's considered a lock to be picked in the MLS draft next year.  The most impressive player for Coastal Carolina, for me, was their sophomore left back Henrik Robstak, a big, fast, skilled attack-minded fullback who put all kinds of pressure on Maryland's right flank.  Ultimately, Jordan Cyrus took some measure of revenge for Robstak's assaults by beating his man off the dribble four minutes from time and laying off a terrific ball for Jereme Raley to put in the back of the net for the fifth and final goal.    

It was only one game, but Pedro Ribiero (who has also been talked up in advance of the draft) did not make much of an impression.  Ribiero struggled contending with Stertzer and Metzger in the middle of the field.  His size caught him out, where lilliputian teammates Justin Portillo and Ricky Garbanzo seemed to find more space.

For Maryland, it was a very good showing by almost everyone who saw the field.  Patrick Mullins worked and worked and worked the full ninety minutes, with a confounding free kick that eluded Petrus.  Other than the flub that led to Bennett's sole goal, the backline -- anchored by two freshmen -- was terrific.  John Stertzer was solid for ninety minutes and Keith Cardona made a couple of tremendous saves.

And their profit on it?  A chance to fully avenge last season's early exit against Louisville back at Ludwig on Saturday.

Joseph Ngwenya was on hand to see his alma mater go down tonight.  As much as I like him, I hope Nick DeLeon leaves Ludwig next week the same way he did on August 26th and Ngwenya did tonight.

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