Men’s Soccer: Jeffrey Hopson’s heroics help Wildcats upset Terrapins

Ben Pope, Reporter

On a rainy and windy Friday afternoon in College Park, Jeffrey Hopson catalyzed two perfect plays at two perfect times to help Northwestern stun host No. 13 Maryland 2-1 in overtime.

With the Wildcats (4-4-1, 2-2-0 Big Ten) desperately needing a tying goal in the 83rd minute, Hopson timed his run on a beautifully designed set piece and played a pass into the goalfront to assist on freshman midfielder Camden Buescher’s first career goal.

Hopson, a junior midfielder, then lofted a long ball to catch senior forward Joey Calistri in stride behind the Maryland (4-3-3, 1-1-2) defense nine minutes into sudden death overtime. Calistri’s sliding pass across the box allowed junior forward Getenet Tuji to strike the ball into the wide-open goal and lifted NU, which was outshot 24-4 in the game, to a shocking victory.

“That was the greatest hit I’ve had in quite some time,” Hopson said of his play that led to the game-winning goal. “(This is) one of the best feelings you could ask for in this sport.”

Coach Tim Lenahan sought to figuratively “shorten” the game by holding the Cats in a defensive shell for the first half. His strategy proved effective, as his team took zero shots during the first 45 minutes but weathered Maryland’s pressure and entered the break tied 0-0.

“We played a really good team firing on all cylinders,” said Lenahan. “You’re not going to be able to play on the road toe-to-toe with Maryland for 90 minutes. We tried to survive the first half.”

NU was able to break forward more frequently in the second frame, aided by a steady wind at their backs, but Maryland continued to produce promising attacking opportunities. Senior goalkeeper Zak Allen made a sliding effort to force a ball out of bounds at the left post in the 55th minute, then barely tipped a scorching Diego Silva shot over the crossbar in the 69th.

The Terrapins finally caught a break in the 79th minute when Allen fumbled an attempted save along the endline and the ball squirted to Maryland forward Jorge Calix, who buried a quick shot from the right edge of the 18-yard box.

The Cats, however, answered in less than four minutes via Buescher’s goal, the culmination of a brilliantly deceptive play — one the team had worked on in Thursday’s practice — off a free kick by sophomore midfielder Sam Forsgren from roughly 30 yards out.

“Calistri split two defenders (with a decoy run) and I was in the right place at the right time,” said Buescher, who slotted the ball past Maryland goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier and just inside the right post.

“We executed it perfectly,” added a pleased Lenahan.

Entering overtime, NU hoped to take advantage of Maryland’s ceaseless offensive possession by jumping on any opportunity for an unexpected fast break in the other direction. That strategy proved equally shrewd.

“Our defenders did a great job protecting the zone and blocking shots,” said Lenahan. “Hopson made a great play to Calistri and we got out of here with a win.”

After outshooting an opponent for the first time in a 1-0 loss to Indiana last Sunday, the Cats suffered their second-largest shot deficit of the year on Friday yet converted two of their four total attempts into goals. They also continued their success in overtime, having drawn with Colgate and beaten Illinois-Chicago and now Maryland in games initially level at the end of regulation time.

“We didn’t have a lot of chances this game, but we’re being efficient and just getting the right players in the right spots,” said Hopson. “Moving forward, (this win) definitely gives us a lot of confidence.”

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