Dec. 12, 2008
FRISCO, Texas - Senior midfielder Graham Zusi scored the game-winner with six minutes remaining in the second overtime period to send the Maryland men's soccer team to the national championship game with a win over St. John's, 1-0, on Friday in the 2008 Men's College Cup at Pizza Hut Park.
The Terps applied significant pressure up front for the majority of the first half, outshooting the Red Storm, 4-2, in the period. Zusi got Maryland's first good look when he attempted a mid-range strike that was blocked by the St. John's backline at 14:34. The first shot on goal for the Terps came less than two minutes later when Jason Herrick served a ball to Casey Townsend who quick-fired the ball right at Red Storm keeper Neal Kitson. Herrick broke open again with the half winding down at 39:21, but his shot went directly into a sprawled out Kitson approximately 12-yards out.
Maryland was the first squad to strike in the second half as well after Zusi tallied his second shot of the night just inside the box. His shot at 50:21 was subsequently knocked out by Kitson and a rebound attempt by Herrick went across the box and just wide of the post to keep the game scoreless. Zusi took Maryland's eighth shot of the contest eight minutes later but it grazed off of Kitson, hit the far post, and trickled out of play. The Terps continued to pepper shots at the St. John's defense only to be denied by Kitson, who racked up eight saves in the second half alone. Maryland outshot St. John's, 12-1, in the period and continuously maintained possession of the ball. It was only the second time this season that the Terps were held without a score through ninety minutes of play.
The Terps tallied the only two shots in the first overtime. Maryland's best chance came when Zusi passed a ball over the top to Herrick, but his header went wide.
The Terps entered unfamiliar territory in the second overtime with St. John's being the first team to push the Terps past the first extra stanza this season. Play, however, remained the same, with Maryland controlling the ball just past the midfield, until Zusi penetrated the Red Storm backline and was fouled just outside the box in the game's 104th minute. Zusi, on his season-high ninth shot of the game, laced a shot past Kitson in the upper right corner for the win. It is the second career goal in the semifinals for Zusi, who also nailed the first score in Maryland's 2005 win against SMU.
"I thought at times we carried the game but at times it was tough to get our rhythm," head coach Sasho Cirovski, who is in search of his second national title, said. "I'm just happy we are playing on Sunday."
Maryland (22-3-0) is headed back to the finals for the fifth time in program history. The Terps last landed in the championship game in 2005 when they captured the title. Friday's win is the 15th-straight for Maryland and its school-record 14th shutout this season. St. John's ends its season at 19-3-3.
Fans will get an ACC battle in the title game as Maryland will face No. 13-seeded North Carolina, at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.