Cary, North Carolina – December 11, 2005 – Should anyone have any doubts about the merits of hard work, determination, and persistence they might want to reconsider. Those factors paid off in a big way for the talented Maryland Terrapins and their head coach Sasho Cirovski on a clear yet brisk Sunday evening as Maryland defeated New Mexico 1-0 at the SAS Soccer Complex in Cary, North Carolina before a crowd of 7,000 to claim the 2005 Men’s Division I National Soccer Championship.
Senior forward Marc Burch tallied the lone goal of a very hard fought and exciting NCAA National Championship contest for Maryland when he scored unassisted out of a free kick from 25 yards out in the 31st minute of play. The free kick was set up when senior Terp defender Chris Lancos pushed the ball forward down the right side and was fouled by New Mexico’s stellar defender Josh Brown.
Throughout the evening, Maryland did an excellent job of keeping the New Mexico defense off balance by attacking down the flanks and crossing the ball back into the box. The Terp players did a good job of defusing the potent New Mexico defense by opening the field of play. Maryland’s ball movement and quickness created open space and gaps in the Lobo defense that gave the Terps the offensive edge.
New Mexico created several opportunities out of counter attacks but the Lobos were unable to finish their scoring opportunities. The Lobos were superior in the air and won many of the fifty-fifty balls but they were unable to exploit their strength and height advantage on restarts. Maryland got the best of the run of play in the middle third which gave them the edge in possession and hampered the New Mexico attack. The Lobo center midfielders were stretched out particularly during the first half which gave Maryland additional space in which to operate and hampered the Lobos ability to put together combinations on the offensive side of the ball.
New Mexico refocused during intermission and got the best of the play in the early part of the second stanza. The Lobos best opportunity to knot the score occurred just five minutes into the second half when they were awarded a penalty kick due to a hand ball in the box.
Maryland’s freshman goalkeeper Chris Seitz came up with a big stop on defender Andrew Boyens’ penalty kick attempt. Boyens also had a clear shot on goal off the rebound of the penalty kick but his shot sailed high above the net. To their credit New Mexico continued to push the action but the missed penalty kick shifted the momentum back to Maryland.
The 2005 National Title matchup was a collision of sorts that was interesting and exciting from the beginning. It rarely works out that the number one and two seeds advance to face each other in the final as was the case this year with the number one seeded Terps squaring off with the number two seeded Lobos. In addition, both teams held the number one ranking in the nation at various times during regular season play.
New Mexico finished regular season play as the number one ranked team in the country in the College Soccer News regular season ending poll. The Lobos took over the number one spot from Maryland when the Terps were upset in the ACC Tourney. The contest was also special in that it showcased the talents of two of the top goal scorers in the nation. All-American senior forwards Jason Garey for Maryland and Jeff Rowland from New Mexico are among the three finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, the highest individual honor in intercollegiate soccer.
There were also contrasting elements that made this one interesting. Maryland and New Mexico have been outstanding on both sides of the ball and both teams like to take the attack to their opponent. However, Maryland’s strength has been on the offensive side of the ball while New Mexico’s bread and butter has been on the defensive side of the ball. In addition, Maryland’s attack is more possession oriented with the Terps knocking the ball around and changing the point of attack to find a weakness to exploit while New Mexico’s attack is much more direct. New Mexico has also been very productive out of restarts using their height and physical strength to their advantage.
Although New Mexico was branded as a much more physical team than Maryland, the Terps were whistled for 24 fouls on Sunday as compared to 18 for New Mexico. Maryland also held a 10 to 5 advantage in the number of corners taken and a 19 to 11 advantage in the number of shots.
The Maryland program has been among the most successful programs in the country over the past few years. Cirovski has taken the Terps to the Final Four for four consecutive years but for the past three they had to pack their bags after the first round and return to College Park. The Terps put an end to their losing streak in Final Four play on Friday when they soundly defeated a very talented SMU team 4-1 to earn the right to advance to play for the National Championship.
Going into the 2005 season Cirovski stated, “It’s easy to look at our success over the last three years and be content, but I don’t think that’s going to happen because of our senior class.” He added, “Although they understand that what they’ve done is very good, they are not satisfied one bit. When you get as far as we’ve gotten, the pain of losing in those national semifinals never goes away. There probably is not a group of seniors that deserves something to happen to them more than this one.”
The 2005 National Title should do a lot to erase the pain of those semifinal loses in the past.
The six seniors on Maryland’s 2005 roster include Michael Dello Russo, Chris Lancos, Kenny Bertz, Jason Garey, Craig Salvati and Marc Burch who transferred in from Evansville prior to the 2005 campaign. There is no doubt that their continued hunger for success played a key role in Maryland’s successful journey to National Title in 2005.
Four newcomers also had a big impact on the outcome of the win over New Mexico. Burch tallied the winning-goal and shored up the Terp defense in the second half. Freshman netminder Seitz came up with the big save on the penalty kick and anchored a Maryland defense that shutout the Lobo’s for only the second time in 2005. Freshman forward Robbie Rogers also had an outstanding evening of play utilizing his speed, ball control skills and crossing ability to keep the Lobo defense off balance. Freshman defender A.J. Delagarza also came up big doing an excellent job of helping to fill the shoes of Maryland’s First Team All-ACC center back Kenny Bertz who was injured and unable to play.
New Mexico concluded a stellar season with an 18-2-3 overall record. In just four years at the helm of the Lobo program, Jeremy Fishbein has taken New Mexico to their first ever College Cup and national prominence. Although they will lose several key players due to graduation, the Lobos will again be a force to contend with in the MPSF and on the national scene in 2006.
Garey, who scored two goals in Maryland’s semi-final win over SMU and who had a solid championship match, was named the Tournament’s Offensive MVP. Seitz was named the defensive MVP becoming the first freshman goalkeeper to lead his team to a national title since 1990.
Maryland’s 2005 National Championship team ends the season with a 19-4-2 overall record and what will definitely be a season to remember for Cirovski and the Terrapin Players.