MEN'S SOCCER | Neumann's Hat Trick, Hoyas' Nerves Seal Championship Berth
Georgetown Defeats Maryland on PKs in Final Four Game for the Ages
Published: Saturday, December 8, 2012
Updated: Sunday, December 9, 2012 21:12
Georgetown had experienced this kind of collapse before.
Stirring up memories of the Big East tournament title they allowed to slip through their grasps with a last-minute equalizer, the Hoyas (20-3-2, 6-2-0 Big East) had a serious flash of deja vu Friday night against Maryland in the Final Four (20-2-2, 6-1-1 ACC). Catalyzed by a hat trick from junior forward Steve Neumann, the Blue and Gray would take 3-1 and 4-2 leads over the Terps, but two late goals by the opposition sent the game to overtime and eventually to penalty kicks.
Momentum very much smiled on Maryland as the teams headed to golden-goal, but sophomore goalkeeper Tomas Gomez flipped the apparent script.
Gomez — who came up big against Syracuse in the same situation in the Sweet 16 two weeks ago — provided two clutch stops to help his team come back to win the shootout 4-3 and advance to the first championship game in Georgetown history in epic fashion.
“We got through 110 minutes, [at which point] you do what you know you can do,” Neumann told ESPNU afterwards. “Everyone put it in their spot [when it got to penalties], … and Gomez made a big save at the end there. We’re just happy to get the win and move on to the championship. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Friday’s contest got off to a less-than-ideal start, however, as the Hoyas conceded the opening goal in the 22nd minute despite having the vast majority of ball possession and pressing their opponents tirelessly when without it.
After that letdown, Neumann took over. Senior left back Jimmy Nealis sent a ball toward the back post, where sophomore midfielder Tyler Rudy set Neumann up with a header to the center of the box. The Hermann Trophy semifinalist then hammered it into the bottom left corner with a side volley to knot things up at one apiece.
He wasn’t done: Seemingly playing a game of one-upmanship with himself, Neumann won in a big way two minutes later. Collecting a pass from outside the 18-yard box, the Pennsylvanian struck a beautiful, dipping shot from outside the box that soared over the outstretched hands of sophomore Keith Cardona, off the far post and in to put his team suddenly ahead.
That 2-1 lead would remain going into the break, as Georgetown was rightly rewarded on the scoreboard for its superior level of play on the field.
“We don’t want to be sitting back here and trying to defend these guys for 45 minutes,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said before his team went back out. “[Maryland is] awfully athletic, they’re awfully dangerous and we’ve got to make sure that we can keep the ball in their half and try to make them defend a bit.
And while those remarks alluded to the serious threat Maryland posed, even Wiese had little idea of the chaos that would reign in the second half.
Allen started the madness with a freak redirect of a goal off of a botched Cardona clearance only three minutes in, quickly making it appear as if the Blue and Gray were all but through to the final.
In the 59th minute, the Terps got one back, scoring in a very similar manner to their first goal by burying a close-range header. Neumann, though, restored the two-goal advantage two minutes less than two minutes later, taking a feed from senior midfielder Andy Riemer and putting it away for the hat trick.
Maryland pulled one back in the 74th minute via another header, and, smelling blood, they continued to push and evened the scoring in the 77th minute. After a bad giveaway from junior striker Gabe Padilla, freshman midfielder Christiano Francois did the rest of the work himself, knifing up the Georgetown defense with a sashaying run before tucking it into the bottom-right corner.
What minutes before had seemed an insurmountable deficit had thus become anyone’s game, and the Hoyas — contrary to what Wiese hoped for at halftime — were on the back foot from there as they barely managed to hang on.
The first overtime period came and went without much noise, but Maryland nearly finished things off with two minutes and change to go in the second OT. But junior forward Patrick Mullins, named one of three Hermann Trophy finalists on Thursday, was pulled down by Gomez inside the six without a whistle, and Mullins’ ensuing shot would miss the wide-open Georgetown net.
The Russian Roulette of penalty kicks awaited to decide the teams' fates.
“If you try to make a run in the Big East tournament or NCAA tournament, the further you go, you’re probably going to run into PKs somewhere along the road,” senior central midfielder Ian Christianson told The Hoya in early November.
That bit of wisdom has proven prescient, keeping in mind both the Syracuse win and Friday's result. Adding in the fact that Christianson’s comments came in the wake of a Seton Hall game that saw two Hoya penalties denied in regulation, it’s a good thing that he and his fellow upperclassmen have been practicing.
Neumann converted the first attempt, but senior center defender Tommy Muller missed the second to put the Blue and Gray in a hole. Gomez saved the Terps’ third kick, however, and Christianson, Riemer and Nealis coolly slotted theirs home to make the score 4-3. Another stop by the ever-composed Gomez sealed the shootout comeback, and the keeper sprinted across the field as his teammates chased him in celebration of their thrilling, historic Final Four victory.