In the 59th minute of Maryland men's soccer's 3-0 loss to VCU on Tuesday, defender George Campbell barely acknowledged the occasional teammate who offered a sympathetic pat on the back as he walked past the entire Terp bench. He then threw his water bottle against the barrier to his left.
Alone, the defender kneeled at the far end of the Terps bench, where he remained — unbothered — until 15 minutes later, when he re-entered the Terps' third consecutive loss.
Campbell's backline, depleted by injuries to starters Chase Gasper and Donovan Pines with one game left in the regular season, has surrendered at least one score in four consecutive games after keeping a clean sheet in eight of its first 12.
"We're giving away goals that we weren't giving away when we were healthy," coach Sasho Cirovski said. "The players have come in and done a solid job, but obviously having to move people around has really affected us."
In the Terps' 5-4 win over Wisconsin on Oct. 13, Gasper re-injured the left groin he'd hurt twice before — once in 2015, which required surgery, and once three games into his return in 2016, costing him nearly his entire season at UCLA.
On Wednesday, a team spokesman said the left back is "day-to-day," but he hasn't dressed for any of the Terps' three games since the injury.
Pines had emerged as a star in his sophomore season, using his 6-foot-5 frame to win balls in the air. The Clarksville native was a late scratch from his usual center back position against VCU due to a concussion. A potential return date is unclear.
"Trying to keep plugging our depleted backline has been a major reality for us," Cirovski said, "and it's been a problem."
Against Georgetown, Cirovski said his team's defense showed "naiveté" on an 88th-minute counter-attack goal that gave the Hoyas a 1-0 win.
Three days later, against Coastal Carolina, freshman Matt Di Rosa — who'd played fewer than 40 minutes total entering that game — moved into a starting role. Chanticleer forward Frantzdy Pierrot's bicycle kick was the game's only goal.
On Tuesday, with Di Rosa still replacing Gasper, and Miles Stray a late swap for Pines, the Terps gave up three goals for just the second time this year.
VCU midfielder Rafael Andrade Santos scored with a world-class effort from more than 30 yards to give the Rams a 1-0 lead, but his second goal was more avoidable for the Terps.
Rams forward Siad Haji, who frequently probed the flank that Gasper used to patrol, again slipped behind the right side in the 45th minute. He slid a cross that eluded five Terps defenders and found Santos at the back post for a clean finish.
While Cirovski called that score "killer," the Rams added a truly crushing blow shortly after halftime.
In the box, Santos played a pass to midfielder Francesco Amorosino, who dribbled away from the goal into space and blasted the ball into the upper corner.
"That's something [where] we need a play defensively or a save," Cirovski said. "We didn't make the play."
Until recently, the Terps' defense — despite featuring four new starters — was their backbone. As the team's attack struggled through periods of inefficiency, its backline never wavered, powering the team to two scoreless draws and two 1-0 victories in its first 12 games.
But the defense's worst performances of the year have come in the last four games. That's one of the reasons the Terps are in a freefall with one game left in the regular season.
"Every team goes through a rough patch," Cirovski said. "This is ours."