Chester, Pa. – Maryland’s two big names, Patrick Mullins and Zach Steffan, rose to the occasion on Friday night to propel the Terrapins to a 2-0 victory at PPL Park, and onto Sunday’s National Championship match against Notre Dame at the same venue.
Mullins struck for a goal in each half, both times controlling a long pass and exploiting a gap between the Virginia center backs to punish Virginia with superb finishes. The 2013 Hermann Trophy winner was quick to praise his teammates. ” Both brilliant balls,” the striker said. “Great vision from both (Mikias Eticha) and Tsubasa (Endoh) on the goals. As a forward all you can do is make hard runs and hope the ball gets there.” “I got two great services,” Mullins said, “and I made sure to put them away.”
Steffan’s moment came with time running out and Maryland clinging to a one goal lead over a rampant Virginia. Overtime seemed to be on the cards between these two great rivals, but Steffan would have none of it. Somehow the keeper stretched to full length to get a strong hand on substitute Brian James’ goal bound rocket, effectively sealing Maryland’s place in the final.
Hometown hero Steffan admitted that, “having all of my friends and family come out to the game was special.” “Living 40 minutes away,” Steffan went on, “and having played here and coming to a lot of Union games, it was special.”
Maryland had taken the early lead when a picture perfect pass from Mikias Eticha split the Virginia defense and found Mullin. Mullin popped the ball over Calle Brown in the Virginia net with a classy shot with the outside of his left foot for the 11th minute goal.
Virginia were battling Maryland and winning their fair share of possession, but the Terps never looked like conceding in the first half. Defensive midfielder Dan Metzger was leading Maryland’s defensive effort, but Virginia came flying out of the traps after the break.
Maryland were getting great, vocal support from their fans, singing, chanting and creating a great atmosphere for this College Cup semifinal. The fans were surely trying to will their boys to go at least one step further than last year, when Maryland went out in heartbreaking fashion, losing to Georgetown on penalty kicks after battling to a 4-4 tie in regulation.
Virginia were dominating the ball in the second half, and that possession finally bore fruit when Todd Wharton calmly slotted a penalty kick past Steffans to cut the lead in half, to 2-1 with almost 77 minutes gone in the game.
Virginia earned that penalty when Dan Metzger took Marcus Salandy-Defour down with a desperation tackle on Steffan’s doorstep.
Maryland were just about hanging on for most of the second half, and just how the Terrapins managed to keep Darius Madison off the scoresheet was more than a bit of a mystery.
With the Virginia midfielders pushing up, Madison was popping up all over the place, wide right, wide left, running through the middle. Maryland couldn’t find him, couldn’t catch him and were lucky to keep him from scoring. Madison actually beat Steffan just five minutes into the half with a powerful shot, only to see his shot rebound straight into the U.S. U20 goalkeepers hands.
This is the last time these two schools will play as ACC rivals with Maryland moving on next season. But the Terrapins still have one more game to play as members of the dominant conference in the nation, when they take on Notre Dame in an all Atlantic Coast Conference National Championship game on Sunday afternoon.