Four minutes. Leading 3-2, Stanford men’s soccer was four minutes away from opening its 2013 campaign with an upset of second-ranked Maryland at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium. But the Terrapins headed home off of a corner kick four minutes to the death and the teams played to a stalemate in extra time to draw 3-3.
“It was an incredible, incredible game, the kind you hope to see at the end of the season in postseason knockout play,” said Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn. “Both teams were so attack-minded, so committed to the game that it was an absolute roller coaster. But we played some great attacking soccer, took some great chances. We kept Maryland fairly quiet in the run of play but gave up some set-piece goals. We could critique all the little things but that would be unfair to the players, they left everything out on the pitch tonight.”
While the win eluded the team’s collective grasp, the Cardinal still did well to earn the hard-fought draw and come away with a result against the nation’s second-ranked team. Forward Zach Batteer netted a brace to continue the momentum from his six-goal campaign a year ago while Drew Hutchins came up with key saves in the late going to hold the line.
Stanford (0-0-1) now must look ahead to Sunday when it hosts No. 3 Georgetown at 4 p.m. Sunday’s match will be televised on the Pac-12 Network with Rich Cellini and Brian Dunseth on the call.
The Cardinal took leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the contest only to have the Terrapins fight their way back to even Friday night. Yet Stanford did well to keep its collective cool each time, holding firm and going toe-to-toe with the 2012 College Cup participants.
“The mental strength [of the team] is absolutely amazing. We were electrifying at the beginning of the game and Maryland was shell-shocked because we were asking all the questions, we had them on the back foot a lot,” Gunn said. “But they got themselves back into the game, and at 2-2 it would’ve been easy for us to fold and say ‘hey we gave it a good try and proved that we could have a bit of a go,’ but we come back and score a third goal and then we’re looking for a winner.”
Stanford attacked right from the start against the Terrapins, earning a pair of corner kicks in the opening minutes with JJ Koval’s header going high in the third minute. It would be five minutes later that the Cardinal pressure would pay off, as Batteer’s blocked shot caromed out to Kovar whose own shot towards the goal caught the outstretched leg of Maryland defender Alex Crognale and was redirected into the net for an own goal.
Hutchins came up with a save of a shot from 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy winner Patrick Mullins in the 11 minute, but from there the Cardinal got back to pressuring, earning two more corner kicks in the next few minutes. The Stanford probing was finally rewarded in the 36th minute on a fine display of passing. Jimmy Callinan opened the sequence by fighting his way through the midfield and feeding a ball through to freshman Jordan Morris on the right flank. Callinan’s effort sprung Morris on a 2-on-1 with Batteer and the Cardinal rookie rolled a perfect pass to the edge of the six-yard box where Batteer tapped home to double the Stanford lead.
The goal seemed to stir the Terrapins to action, and five minutes later they halved the lead on a well-executed free kick. Mikey Ambrose served to the far post where Mullins met the ball square on the forehead and deposited it past the near post. Mullins would get one more header towards net in the final seconds of the half but the Cardinal would maintain the 2-1 advantage after the opening 45 minutes.
Maryland should have leveled the score two minutes into the second half but a spectacular diving save from Cardinal goalkeeper Drew Hutchins stopped the ball just before the line. Stanford would see an opportunity of its own pass through its fingers six minutes later as Morris found himself on the break with only Maryland goalkeeper Zack Steffen to beat, but Steffen was equal to the task and managed to deny the freshman his first collegiate goal.
That missed chance would bite the Cardinal less than a minute later, as the Terrapins earned a Sunny Jane corner kick from which Tshuma Schillo would head home to the far post for the equalizer. But the Cardinal did anything but fold after squandering a two-goal lead. At the hour mark Zach Batteer latched onto a free ball in his own half and worked his way past four defenders along the right flank, putting the Cardinal back in front with a blast that clipped the hands of Steffens on its way into the net.
The goal set up a nervy final half-hour, as Maryland’s Jake Pace headed into the crossbar and down off of a 65th-minute corner kick as Brandon Vincent cleared the ball out. Stanford would miss a golden opportunity to ice the match from the spot in the 85th minute, as JJ Koval, after being tripped in the box to earn the spot kick, got Steffens diving the wrong way but hit a piledriver into the crossbar and out.
As with the missed chance earlier in the half, the Terrapins would turn it right around and net the equalizer. This one also came from the corner, as Pace made the most of his second chance at goal and headed home to the near corner.
Each team had a corner kick go to naught in the first session of extra time but the match took a crucial turn in the 100th minute when Stanford freshman defender Brian Nana-Sinkam was sent off after a physical confrontation with Mullins. Playing the final session with just 10 men, the Cardinal was bailed out in the first minute of the frame when Hutchins went horizontal to stop a free kick from Tsubaba Endoh. Hutchins would again preserve the draw in the 110th minute, tipping Mullins’ header over the bar and out to snuff out the Terrapins last chance of the match.
“I thought it was exciting stuff from us in every part of the field,” Gunn noted. “We’ll be disappointed in some ways from the tie, having thought we could win the game, but Maryland had good chances as well. You go away as a fan and say you know what, if that’s the first game of the season then it should be an exciting year.”