Year after year, Maryland men's soccer coach Sasho Cirovski puts together a grueling schedule for his team, often highlighted by early season matchups against some of the nation's top teams. It's to see how his team stacks up to the other elite teams right away and immediately thrust the Terps into the type of atmosphere they might see on a postseason run to the College Cup.
And Friday night was no different. No. 1 UCLA visited No. 6 Maryland, and with an announced Ludwig Field-record 8,449 on hand, the Terps captured a 2-1 overtime victory over the Bruins, thanks to freshman forward Sebastian Elney's header in the 96th minute.
"It's a dream," Elney said. "It's a dream come true and more."
Midfielder Tsubasa Endoh gathered the ball in the corner and lost his defender before lofting a left-footed cross to the far post. Elney settled under it and headed it past UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes before ripping off his black No. 9 jersey and jumping up on the net in front of the fans behind the goal.
"Sebastian came here for these moments," coach Sasho Cirovski said. "On his visit, he fell in love the team, fell in love with The Crew and I think he's been dreaming about this type of goal, scoring it in front of The Crew, ever since he committed to Maryland. I'm just glad that here at Ludwig Field, dreams can come true."
Friday night also marked the first career home start for goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier (Broadneck). The redshirt junior had made his first career start last Friday in the season opener after injuries derailed the first three years of his career.
Though he'd run out with the team into a packed stadium before, he said it felt "surreal" running out as the starter and he couldn't stop smiling as he took his place between the posts before the game started.
Niedermeier performed well, making a few highlight reel saves and finishing with six saves total. His lone blemish came with about 20 minutes left in regulation when UCLA forward Abu Danladi launched a rocket from outside the box into the right corner to tie the game. After Maryland had controlled the ball for most of the first half, Niedermeier and the defense had to weather a Bruins onslaught.
"I'm so happy for him," Elney said. "Just the way he held it down, had a humongous game."
Midfielder Mael Corboz put Maryland on top 20 minutes into the second half. Defender Chris Odoi-Atsem streaked down the right sideline and took a pass from Elney before trying to launch a shot on goal. UCLA defender Michael Amick slid to try to block it, but it deflected off his hand for a penalty kick. Corboz calmly sniped it into the bottom left corner for the sixth penalty kick in six career tries.
The game was physical. Maryland midfielder Eryk Williamson and Cervantes had a nasty collision in the first half and three yellow cards were doled out. The players jawed with each other on the sideline a few times with some shoving.
But Maryland weathered UCLA's challenge and Elney delivered the first highlight of his young career.
"We showed the heart of a champion," Cirovski said. "We were a little bit on the ropes and we came through with a great goal worthy of a winner in a game of this magnitude."