Redemption complete. The Maryland men’s soccer team finished its redemption tour and are the 2018 National Champions, defeating the Akron Zips, 1-0.
After junior defender Johannes Bergmann was taken down inside the box when he was kicked in the face, the Terps were granted a penalty kick. And who else would take it but senior captain Amar Sejdic. He buried the shot to the left post, past senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt.
He had another chance on a penalty kick in the 76th minute, but Lundt wasn’t faked out from Sejdic’s stutter step and stopped his second penalty kick attempt.
It did not matter, though, as Sejdic’s eighth goal of the season proved to be the game-winning and national championship-winning goal. The Terps held off the Zips to complete their fifth shutout of the NCAA Tournament
Sejdic also recorded the first two shots of the game, though both posed no trouble for the Zips’ senior goalkeeper Ben Lundt.
Akron, who came in having scored a Tournament-high 15 goals, were unable to crack through the Maryland defense all night long. St. Clair made two saves to secure the clean sheet while centerback Donovan Pines and company were stellar.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair made his first big save of the night in the 18th minute, when junior forward Marcel Zajac had a strike to the near post. Falling backwards, St. Clair stuck his right leg out and just knocked the ball out of bounds for an Akron corner kick, which was then cleared.
The Terps tried out some trickery on a free kick about 10 yards outside of the box, Sejdic’s third shot of the game, but it was blocked by the wall and deflected out for an Akron goal kick.
Nearly 30 minutes into the match, junior Eli Crognale had a volley shot off a throw-in, but Lundt made an easy save. The Zips came close just a minute later, as freshman Marco Milanese took a shot from inside the box only to be blocked by Bergmann.
With 10 minutes remaining in the half, the two teams were as evenly matched as can be. Both had five shots, two on goal, and no goals yet. Though both had their looks on goal, the final piece was missing for each.
The Maryland forwards were scarcely involved in the first 45 minutes, even as head coach Sasho Cirovski swapped out personnel looking for a spark from sophomore Eric Matzelevich and senior DJ Reeves. And Reeves indeed did provide his team their closest chance on goal, forcing Lundt to make a one-handed diving save on his close-range shot.
Maryland and Akron, who went into halftime up 2-0 against Michigan State in the College Cup semifinal, went into the locker room tied 0-0.
It was a first for the Terps, who had not had a scoreless first half the entire NCAA Tournament. The Maryland defense, though, extended their shutout streak in the tournament another 45 minutes.
The Terps changed up their lineup to start the second half, leaving Matzelevich, Reeves and Matt Di Rosa in, the lineup that was beginning to put some pressure on the Zips’ backline near the end of the first half.
The added pressure paid off for the Terps, who had a few header chances on goal and then finally broke through with Sejdic’s penalty kick.
Time was running out for the Zips, who began playing a man down after freshman Carlo Ritaccio was issued a red card in the 81st minute for a last-ditch tug on forward DJ Reeves.
The Terps still held a 1-0 lead as time ran off the clock, and reality sunk in that they had captured the program’s fourth title.
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