It wasn't always pretty, but the Real Maryland soccer team won its fifth consecutive match Sunday evening.
The Monarchs rallied twice from a pair of one-goal deficits to defeat Southern West Virginia 3-2 at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. They are in second place (6-3-2, 20 points) in the South Atlantic Division and in the thick of the United Soccer Leagues' Premier Development League postseason race
“We stunk in the beginning of the season so it feels great,” midfielder and Clarksburg High School graduate Julio Arjona said. “We are a collective unit now and half of it is because we get a good night rest, eat our own food and get to stay at home.”
While the results are satisfying, there is a growing cause for concern on the pitch. Real Maryland, which has never qualified for the playoffs, has started slow in several games and frequently has had to play from behind early in games.
Against Southern West Virginia (2-8-1, 7 points), the Monarchs committed several turnovers in the first half and trailed 1-0 when Tony Stock scored in the 13th minute.
“I have no clue why we do it, but it is something we got to fix,” Arjona said of the early uneven play. “Maybe it is just how we warm up. We do start slow and sloppy, but we seem to usually get momentum and get going.”
The Monarchs tied the game a minute later as David Neuberth, the team's top striker with 9 goals, scored off a textbook pass from Aboubacarim Ndaw.
Southern West Virginia regained its advantage in the 31st minute off a corner kick that eventually found its way to Stock's foot for his second goal.
Real Maryland, however, rallied to tie again. Arjona drew a penalty inside the box and converted the ensuing penalty kick on a low shot to the back left of the net.
“I wanted it so bad,” he said. “To be honest, I wanted to go right at first because of how [the goalkeeper was standing]. But I just decided to kick it as hard as I could.”
Real Maryland, which outshot its opponent 20-6, then completed the comeback and seized the lead for good in the 60th minute. Neuberth intercepted a throw by goalkeeper Erik Mozzo and played the ball ahead to Alassane Kane who dribbled it into the back of the net.
“David is definition of a goal scorer,” Arjona said. “He's in the right place at the right time all the time.”
Southern West Virginia appeared to score the equalizing goal in stoppage time, but the play was ruled offside.
The Monarchs are on the road Wednesday at Northern Virginia before returning home Sunday for the final four games of the regular season. They host the first place Carolina Dynamo on Sunday.
Note: The game was delayed in the 33rd minute for 65 minutes due to lightning.