HOOVER, Ala. — In a game of twists, turns, and goals galore, two saves from Georgetown goalkeeper Tomas Gomez in penalty kicks clinched the Hoyas’ first-ever spot in the College Cup final after a dramatic 4-4 semifinal triumph over Maryland.
Along the way to the deciding spot kicks, Georgetown's Steve Neumann scored a hat trick, the Terrapins erased a two-goal deficit in the second half to force overtime and Maryland came close to a dramatic winning goal in the finals seconds of regulation.
Neumann’s tallies powered the Hoyas out to a 4-2 lead in the second half, only to see the Terps come roaring back, as goals from Patrick Mullins and Christiano Francois forced extra time before the Hoyas ultimately triumphed.
“It’s a great result for us,” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese said after the game. “I think people who haven’t been following this team might be a surprised by some things, but this group of guys has been doing this all season.”
Through the game’s first fifteen minutes, the Hoyas showed no nerves in their first College Cup appearance, dominating possession and creating early chances. Midfielder Tyler Rudy should have opened the scoring for the Hoyas in the ninth minute, when a low cross found him at the top of the box. But Rudy skied his shot well high of goalkeeper Keith Cardona.
Maryland would punish the miss in the 20th minute through forward Schillo Tshuma’s opening goal. It came from nice movement off the ball, as Patrick Mullins headed a Dan Metzger cross into the path of an on-rushing Tshuma, who headed home from close range.
Neumann’s first two goals of the game offered up the right response for Georgetown. First, a cross by Jimmy Nealis was headed across the box to an unmarked Neumann, who slotted in the equalizer in the 33rd minute. Just over a minute later, the marksman struck again, left unattended outside the 18-yard-box, lofting a beautiful curling shot over everyone, kissing the far right post and nestling in to give the Hoyas the lead.
“Stevie is able to do this stuff,” Wiese said. “He can create goals out of nothing. He’s an instinctual goal scorer.”
Trailing by a goal, disaster struck for the Terps right after halftime. The Hoyas got on the board again two minutes into the second stanza on an error by Cardona. The ‘keeper dwelled too long on a back pass, and an onrushing Allen deflected the clearance attempt into the net to extend the lead to 3-1.
“When you give up goals like that, sometimes it shows that it’s maybe not in the cards today,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “It was a soft goal to give up in a College Cup, and probably ends up being one of the killer ones in the game.”
Tshuma doubled his goal tally on the night to pull Maryland right back into the game, as another header from Mullins across the goal found Tshuma at the back post to make it 3-2.
The hope for the Terps wouldn’t last long as Neumann rounded out his hat trick. A well-worked counter saw Allen play midfielder Andy Riemer down the left flank, who found Neumann at the far post for a sliding finish, restoring the two-goal advantage.
Even with the lead, the Hoyas kept attacking, knowing that no lead is safe versus a team with the offensive power the Terps possess.
“Against a team like Maryland, you’re never going to feel secure with that and they proved exactly why they’re leading the country in goals this season,” Wiese said.
While all seemed lost for the Maryland the Terps proved Wiese’s assertion and tied the game. Substitute Mikey Ambrose unleashed a brutal left-footed strike from distance that caromed off the crossbar, bouncing straight to Mullins who headed home to make it a one-goal game in the 74th minute. It wouldn’t take long to tie it up either, as Christiano Francois finished off a supreme individual effort two minutes later with a far post finish to make it 4-4.
“It was typical of our team,” Mullins said. “We’ve been down before this year and I don’t think ever for a chance we didn’t think we’d come back. That’s just a testament to our team mentality all year.”
The Terps had chances to win it before overtime as well, with Jake Pace coming closest with just seconds left in regulation, just missing a far post shot.
The hulking forward had an early opportunity in the first overtime again, only to see his shot hit side netting five minutes into the period. Riemer flashed a header wide from a corner kick as well, while Tomas Gomez smartly saved a fierce effort from Francois.
Georgetown, which struggled with penalty kicks during the regular season, wasn't fazed even by an early miss from Tommy Muller, as Gomez came through with a pair of saves on the final two shots by Taylor Kemp and Helge Leikveng.
For Wiese, the result is just more of the same from what’s he’s seen from his group in 2012.
“What this team has shown through the year, is that we do whatever needs to be done to get the result,” he said.