Men’s Soccer Suffers First Loss of the Season to Maryland
In a game that was billed as a matchup of the best goalies in the country, the defending national runners-up Maryland bossed the previously-unbeaten No. 3 Nittany Lions 4-0 on Sunday in College Park.
From the start, State looked completely out of sorts, failing to control the midfield with any precision and looking pressured by a Maryland attack that, until this point, had been having a down season. Mael Corboz drew blood first, slotting home a cross in the 12th minute. Twenty minutes later, Maryland drew a penalty and Corboz, the No. 43 player in the country according to Top Drawer, stepped up, and the Rutgers transfer buried it on the left side just past Andrew Wolverton to give Corboz his second goal of the game. That two-goal lead in the first half would not be relinquished, as Penn State trailed and lost for the first time all season.
It was an unlucky day for Wolverton, who, until this point, was statistically the best goalie in the country. In addition to guessing correctly but still just missing the penalty save, the senior was beaten by a rebound off the crossbar in the 53rd minute by Alex Shinsky and nearly saved Tsubasa Endoh’s far-post shot, getting a piece of it but ultimately unable to stop it. Despite two saves from Wolverton, a lack of offensive firepower, an overmatched midfield, and a few bad bounces doomed the Lions.
There were a few moments where Penn State looked threatening, but with just three of 10 shots on target (two of them being easy saves), the previously ruthless Lions simply could not finish. Maryland goalie Zack Steffen has been having a down season compared to last year, when he was clearly the best in the country last year and was tasked to be a future USMNT star. Steffen looked comfortable today and was rarely threatened, but answered the call when needed. A beautiful diving save on Eli Dennis’ header just a little over an hour and a half in to the game preserved the shutout and killed the momentum Penn State had built up to that point. Star striker Connor Maloney had just one shot on goal, and was generally ineffective due to a combination of strong marking and lack of service. Mikey Minutillo also turned in a mediocre shift, unable to break free in 45 minutes on the pitch.
It was a frustrating game all-around. When one of your center backs is the team leader in shots and shots on goal, odds are you aren’t running an efficient offensive game. Penn State isn’t considered one of the best teams in the country because it tries to play like West Ham, and while a frustrating Maryland defense caused it, the Lions have to get back to what put them on top of the Big Ten: possession and precision.
Penn State is back home in the cozy confines of Jeffery Field against Michigan State on Saturday at 7 p.m., and could well run the table if they can right the ship against an improved MSU team.