Entering the final game of the regular season, the Real Maryland soccer team had an excellent chance to extend its season. All it needed to do was not lose to visiting South Atlantic Division rival West Virginia.
The Monarchs succeeded.
On Sunday, Real Maryland played the Chaos to a 2-2 draw at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. The Monarchs are scheduled to play Tuesday at Carolina the first round of the United Soccer Leagues' Premier Development League Eastern Conference tournament.
It is the first time Real Maryland has qualified for the postseason as an amateur PDL team. The club, which was established in 2008, played in the playoffs in 2009 as a professional outfit. Real Maryland (8-4-4, 28 points) finished the 2012 season in second place in the division while West Virginia (8-5-3, 27 points) placed third and missed the postseason. The Carolina Dynamo won the division title with 37 points.
“This means a lot for the franchise,” coach Silvino Gonzalo said. “We work to win the division, but we finish second place and go to the playoffs. It is mission accomplished.”
Real Maryland started the season with six consecutive road games and it struggled to a 1-3-2 record. Since the beginning of June, the team is 8-1-1.
“I missed the first half of the season and a lot of other guys did as we were coming back from college,” said midfielder Karou Forbess, who played at the University of Maryland and was a member of the Real Maryland last summer. “I was one of maybe five guys back so it took time to get to know each other.”
Added Gonzalo: “Every year you got to replace 20 to 24 new players. It takes time to match guys up and have chemistry. … We are very happy, but not satisfied yet with the result.”
On Sunday against the Chaos, Real Maryland established itself early with the all-important first goal. In the 17th minute, Alassane Kane scored on an assist from David Neuberth, who had controlled the ball following a corner kick.
West Virginia answered in the 23rd minute on a penalty kick. Dan Stratford utilized some nifty dribbling to elude several defenders before drawing a foul.
Real Maryland regained the lead momentarily in the 27th minute. Chaos goalkeeper Tom Rusling failed to collect a clearing attempt by the Monarchs and Neuberth, who was providing pressure, was able to tap the misplayed ball into the net.
West Virginia's offensive execution then caused the Monarchs to have a few defensive lapses midway through the half and it responded again in the 31st minute with a goal by Tyler Fabian.
The teams appeared to play cautiously in the second half with the outcome of the game in doubt. Real Maryland had a ball ricochet off the goalpost midway through the half and had another prime scoring opportunity denied by an offside call.
But it did not matter and the Monarchs season will continue.
“This is a big deal,” Forbess said. “First time this team has made the playoffs. I'm so happy and proud to be part of it. Lots of different guys can score and do different things on this team.”
Note: The game was delayed in the 11th minute for 32 minutes due to lightning.