WHO: Michigan State Spartans @ Maryland Terrapins
WHAT: B1G Men's Soccer Tournament semifinal game
WHERE: Ludwig Field, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
WHEN: Friday, November 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm Eastern
WATCH: In person or BTN
A look back
Although it was quite an event the first time the Michigan State men's soccer team came to Ludwig Field in College Park to play the Maryland Terrapins the stakes were not quite as high as they will be when the Spartans return for a rematch Friday afternoon. That game was the first home game in a men's sport for any Maryland squad. Over 6,000 fans crowded into Ludwig field that Friday night to watch the Spartans score just eight minutes into the game then hold on to withstand a intense second half effort by the Terps spoiling Maryland's home debut by coming away with the 1-0 result.
With two-thirds of the season in front of them, the Terrapins had plenty of time to recover and they used it well bouncing back to capture the Big Ten Championship. The only recovery time for this Friday night's loser Will Likely be some extra time to rest and prepare for the NCAA Tournament. The winner, however, will move on to the B1G Tournament championship game Sunday afternoon.
Changes in attitudes
When the Spartans came to College Park for that early season contest, Michigan State had a 4-1-1 record. The Terrapins were 1-2-2 with their only win coming against Coastal Carolina. When the Spartans came to College Park for that early season contest, Michigan State had constructed a nearly impenetrable defense that had conceded just one goal in their first six games. Maryland was a scoring challenged team that had been shutout twice and had scored just five goals in in five games. When the Spartans came to College Park for that early season contest, Michigan State was coming off a 1-0 win. Maryland had eked out a tie at Michigan scoring the equalizer with just 22 seconds to play.
Michigan State's 1-0 win was part of a five game stretch where they played confidently, notched three more shutouts and seemed to have established their identity as a defensively oriented team. Maryland continued to flounder looking very much like a team in search of an identity. Although they picked up two wins, they were also shutout for a fourth time and their lone goal in the win over Dayton came from a penalty kick. The stretch culminated with a 3-2 overtime loss at Northwestern that dropped the Terps to 1-2-1 in conference play and 3-5-2 overall. Maryland needed something and needed it quickly.
Changes in latitudes
I've written about this before noting that those of us not associated with the team will never know the relative importance of these three nearly concurrent events in turning Maryland's season around: (1) their head coach received a one game suspension for berating an official after the loss at Northwestern; (2) the players held a team meeting laid the groundwork for a new direction, or; (3) the team's overall roster health improved to its best point of the season.
After the loss at Northwestern Maryland was already languishing toward the bottom third of the standings halfway through the conference season. Michigan State, meanwhile, was hovering near the top - tied for third with Northwestern. So what happened next?
For Maryland, they found their mojo and have torn off nine consecutive wins outscoring the opposition by a collective 23-6 and moving to the top of the Big Ten standings. While the Spartans certainly didn't collapse, they flattened out. Their record in the second half of the conference schedule was identical to the 2-1-1 mark they managed in their first four games. The performance dropped them to fifth place and over their last eight games they finished 4-2-2 including their win at Penn State in the quarterfinals as they head into Friday's semifinal.
Matching it up - the offense
Thanks in large part to their late season rush, the Terps are a bit more potent than the Spartans. For the season Maryland averages 1.74 goals per game while MSU scores at a 1.37 average. Over the last nine games, however, Maryland has scored better than two and a half goals per game while Michigan State has only increased their average by .30 goals per game over the same period.
Michigan State will be one of the most balanced teams the Terps - or anyone for that matter - will face. Jason Stacy leads the Spartans with seven goals and fifteen points. However, Jay Chapman, Adam Montague, Tim Kreutz and Zach Carroll have each scored four goals and all but Carroll in that quartet have at least two assists.
Maryland will counter that with some balance of their own. Junior transfer Mael Corboz leads the Terps with nine goals and 21 points. George Campbell and David Kabelik each have four goals for Maryland while Mikias Eticha and Dan Metzger have three apiece. In the last third of the season, one key for Maryland has been the emergence of the freshman Campbell. The highly touted recruit from McDonogh High School in Baltimore has scored in four of the last five games including three straight and has emerged as a player Maryland's opponents must account for on the offensive end.
And on defense
The story on defense is, in some ways similar but with the Spartans holding a slight edge over the Terps. MSU has conceded only 14 goals for the season compared with 17 for the Terrapins. For those interested in goals per game, the averages would be 0.74 for Michigan State and 0.89 for Maryland. It may be instructive to note, however, that the Spartans have given up 13 of their 14 goals since they played Maryland while the Terps have only give up 10 goals since they played Michigan State. it is also worth nothing that for the season, Michigan State seems more reliant on their goalkeeper than on their defense.
Zack vs. Zach
Let's take a look at the two goalkeepers - Zach Bennett for Michigan State and Maryland's Zack Steffen. Steffen has played every minute in goal for the Terps and Bennett has played all but nine minutes for the Spartans. Here's how they match up:
|Goals Allowed||GAA||Saves||Save %|
In the games since the first meeting, they match up like this:
|Goals Allowed||GAA||Saves||Save %|
While Steffen has maintained a fairly consistent save percentage, Bennett has seen something of a drop off though his save percentage remains impressive. Simply looking at the numbers, one might conclude that Bennett is a better goalkeeper than Steffen but those who have seen Maryland play know that the aggressive Maryland attack often leads to open counter attacks that leave Steffen in nearly untenable positions.
And the winner goes to
When the Terps and Spartans take the field Friday afternoon, the winner of that game will know who their opponent will be in Sunday's final. Indiana and Ohio State will meet in the first semifinal.