Cal Poly came to Ludwig Field on Monday winless, coming off games in which their opponents took 30 and 25 shots, outshooting the Mustangs by a combined 55-19.
The Maryland men's soccer team, ranked No. 6 in the country and with wins in its first three games, continued to take advantage of Cal Poly's wilting defense. The Terps took 15 shots and allowed the Mustangs just one in the second half.
The Terps couldn't pull away from the Mustangs but used Gordon Wild's penalty kick in the 26th minute to take a 1-0 victory and move to 4-0 in 2017.
"Clearly we were in control the whole time," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. "I would've liked a little more sharpness and a couple more goals."
The team described Cal Poly's ultra-defensive tactics, especially in the second half, as a sign of the Mustangs having "a lot of respect" for the Terps.
Maryland dominated possession in the first half, outshooting the Mustangs 8-2 and not allowing a shot on goal. In the second half, though, the Terps took it to another level.
The Mustangs rarely moved the ball past midfield and routinely had all 11 of their players deep in their defensive half.
"It's kind of tough not to get frustrated," forward DJ Reeves said of playing a defensive-minded foe. "But some teams are going to be like that."
Midfielder Eli Crognale said the Terps weren't "at all" expecting such tactics from Cal Poly. When watching film of the Mustangs' loss to Georgetown, the team pushed forward, and Maryland anticipated them playing "50-50" on Monday.
Instead, the Mustangs sat back and didn't allow Maryland to extend its lead after Wild scored his second penalty kick of the season.
Reeves earned the penalty in the 26th minute, running onto the end of a long pass from midfielder Eryk Williamson and taking his first touch a few steps inside the box.
"We practice throughout the season on movement of the forwards up top and connecting," Reeves said. "When I see [Williamson] get the ball in that pocket, we practice on me getting around either that right-back or center-back."
Monday, Reeves, who possesses what Cirovski has called "scary speed," darted around the right-back and into the box. Cal Poly defender Tony Scimeca arrived to the ball a split-second later and knocked down Reeves, prompting the referee to award a penalty.
Having sent his penalty to the left Friday against UCLA, Wild ripped his shot to the right Monday. In both cases, the goalkeeper dove the other direction and Maryland took a 1-0 lead.
Wild beat Mustangs goalkeeper Simon Boehme with the spot kick, but other than that, Boehme, who finished with seven saves, played a game Cirovski said was "outstanding."
"He's a terrific goalkeeper," the veteran coach said, "and he probably kept the ball out of the net on at least three occasions that otherwise were going to be [goals]."
His strong play made the Mustangs' strategy more feasible, if not any prettier. Still, Cirovski said he was happy the Terps accomplished all three of their goals Monday: securing a victory, suffering no injuries and recording a shutout, even if Cal Poly all but conceded the last one.
"They sat back almost 20 yards behind midfield," Crognale said. "It was nice to have, honestly, at times because it was just kind of a casual game. But at times you wanted them to step up so we could play a bit more."