2008 :: The Gold Standard
A nationally top-ranked recruiting class coupled with a solid group of returners set expectations high for the Terps' 2008 season.
The Terps headed to the West Coast to open the year with a pair of Top-25 matches against UCLA and California. Maryland dropped UCLA, 2-1, in dramatic fashion at The Home Depot Center as Rodney Wallace scored the game-winner in overtime in front of a live television audience on the Fox Soccer Channel. Maryland would fall in a tight contest to Cal, 1-0, two days later.
After defeating non-conference foes Hartford and Davidson at home, Maryland went on to pick up its first two Atlantic Coast Conference wins of the year against #9 Boston College and #25 Duke. The victory against Duke gave head coach Sasho Cirovski win No. 218, making him the all-time winningest coach in Maryland men's soccer program history.
After registering its fourth consecutive shutout with a 4-0 win against local opponent American, No. 2- ranked Maryland readied itself for a showdown with No. 1 Wake Forest on Sept. 26.
Terrapin fans came out in the thousands, posting a Ludwig Field capacity record crowd of 6,500 on a rainy night in College Park. Energized by the electric environment, the Terps came out to an early 1-0 lead after a Jason Herrick score in the first minute of play. The game was knotted at 2-2 heading into halftime, but a late Wake Forest rally provided the defending national champions with a pair of goals and a critical ACC win.
Maryland recovered to drop Binghamton four days later, but took a tumble on the road at Clemson, giving up an uncharacteristic five goals to the Tigers.
The loss served as a wake-up call for Maryland and its backline as the Terps would go on to win seven games to close out the regular season.
As the second seed in the ACC Tournament in Cary, N.C., Maryland posted three consecutive shutout victories against North Carolina, Boston College and Virginia in the finals to secure its third ACC Tournament crown. Jeremy Hall was tabbed ACC Tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring a pair of goals in the championships.
Boasting an ACC title and an impressive 10-game winning streak, the Terps were granted the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
After a first-round bye, the Terps drew CAA foe George Mason in the second round. Townsend netted the game-winner while Graham Zusi followed with an insurance goal to give Maryland the 2-0 win at Ludwig.
The Terps would get a shot at redemption in the sweet sixteen as Maryland played host to a squad they lost to in the second match of the year - California. After dramatic exits in the sweet sixteen the past two seasons, Maryland was able to climb over the hump in the 2008, defeating the Bears, 2-1, off of goals from Omar Gonzalez and Hall.
The only thing standing in the way of Maryland and its fourth final four in six years was Creighton. The Terps dominated the match against the No. 2-ranked opponent in the country and came away with a 1-0 win after a Rodney Wallace header sealed the Terp's trip to Frisco, Texas for the College Cup.
In one of the most thrilling matches in NCAA College Cup history, Maryland edged St. John's, 1-0, in double overtime to advance to the national championship game. Zusi scored arguably the finest goal of the 2008 college soccer season when his free kick just outside the box sailed past Red Storm keeper Neal Kitson to the upper right corner.
Maryland would face a very familiar foe in the title game as the Terps lined up against ACC rival North Carolina for the third time in 2008. Zusi solidified his bid for Most Outstanding Player in the 2008 Men's College Cup when his goal in the 67th minute sparked Maryland to its second national championship in only four seasons. The Terps ended its remarkable season on a 16-game winning streak and set additional program records for wins (23) and shutouts (15) in a season.