Maryland made its first appearance in the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship match since 2008 on Sunday. Looking to join San Francisco and UCLA in a tie for the fourth most NCAA titles, Maryland instead fell flat against Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish won their first men’s soccer title in school history. They already had three championships on the women’s side.
Handballs ruled the game as the refs missed two clear calls against Notre Dame. Maryland fans can’t complain too much, though. Senior forward Patrick Mullins scored the Terps’ only goal by purposefully knocking the ball down with his hand and then finishing with his left foot, he admitted after the game.
The referee who missed both calls against Notre Dame is MLS referee Chico Grajeda. But after the game, Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski was very gracious.
“I think Chico is the best referee in the country,” Cirovski said. “I think once I review it on video, I’m sure I might be hurting a little more. But at this point we have no control over any part of the situation, and I have no regrets about the game.”
Instead of focusing on Maryland’s first NCAA title loss since 1962, Cirovski chose to focus on supporting his star forward, whose conscience affected him the rest of the game after he scored Maryland’s first and only goal of the contest.
Even though replays do not definitively show Mullins using his hand to knock the ball down before his goal, he admitted to it by himself after the game. Cirovski believes that his post-game openness should ease the minds of any MLS teams who may have otherwise second-guessed his integrity and chosen not to draft him next year.
Mullins scored 47 goals in his career at Maryland, placing him in second on the program’s all-time list.
Despite the loss, Maryland enjoyed a very successful season. For the first and last time, Maryland is the back-to-back ACC champion and it was the first time Maryland appeared in a second consecutive College Cup since the 2004 and 2005 seasons.