In the beginning of the UMBC men’s home soccer game on Sept. 19, the heat and humidity in the evening air were enough to make the spectators sweat nearly as much as the players. But, as the game against the Howard University Bisons went on, the sky grew darker, the air chilled, and spectators were sweating not from temperature, but from anxiety. With the Retrievers coming off of a 2-0 loss to Western Michigan, the team was hoping for a victory against a team they’ve defeated in 14 of their 19 previous meetings. What they got, however, was a 2-2 tie after playing two intense halves as well as two equally-nerve-wracking overtime periods.
Off the bat, it appeared UMBC would dominate the game. Just ten minutes in, a corner kick for UMBC seemed like a perfect opportunity to take an early lead, but a wide header got Howard a goal kick that cleared the ball back to midfield. Additionally, the Retrievers saw several missed opportunities in crosses into the box that no players were there to capitalize on. But even more disappointing than the incomplete crosses were the three times that shots by UMBC hit the crossbar.
Things started to pick up with ten minutes left in the half, when UMBC had several attempts that nearly resulted in a goal but simply did not pan out. That is, until junior-midfielder David Bao who was assisted by senior-defender Kyle Saunderson and freshman- defender Jordan Ehart scored 37 minutes into the game, putting the Retrievers at a one-goal advantage that carried into the second half.
The second half started similarly to the first, with immediate attempts on the goal by UMBC. Just ten minutes in, sophomore-forward Cesare Marconi, the Retriever’s leading goal-scorer, had a beautiful shot that landed in the back of the net but was invalidated since he had been offsides. But less than five minutes later, senior-midfielder James Gielen scored after a strong drive down the field and a series of clean and controlled passes.
Gielen’s goal, according to Head Coach Pete Caringi, was the turning point of the game – but not in a good way, because just five minutes later, Howard scored their first goal. Looking to retaliate, UMBC began a drive down the field that was stopped when Marconi was tripped in the box, earning a penalty kick. But Marconi’s kick went high and wide, keeping Howard at just a one-goal deficit. And, with just 22 minutes left in regulation, the Bisons scored again and evened the score at 2 goals each.
This is where things started to get chippy and extremely physical. In fact, UMBC had to use far more subs than usual due to the frequent injuries – the worst being when a foot to the head knocked senior-midfielder Marshal MacCartney unconscious during the 82nd minute. Fouls were common, free kicks occurred often, and several other cards were given out to Howard players. In fact, the last thirty seconds of the second half included Howard’s Andres Gomez getting his second yellow card, causing him to be removed from the game for an improper slide-tackle, and an assistant coach getting a red card as well. With Howard having to play one man down for the upcoming sudden-death overtime, it appeared that the Retrievers had a chance to take the game back.
Instead, overtime consisted of 20 minutes of rough soccer with approximately even possession time from both teams. The game ended after 110 minutes of solid play by both the Retrievers and Bisons, but an on-field altercation following the end of the game continued the high tensions felt by both teams throughout the duration of the match.
Although UMBC did display excellent control of the ball as well as incredible teamwork when it came to making space and creating opportunities, they simply could not follow through on those opportunities. But, according to Coach Caringi, they plan not to dwell on the match and instead focus on their upcoming Conference games, where they will look to rebound and get back in the win column.