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Maryland Men's Soccer Preview: Terps vs Akron

After the euphoria that was the Friday night win over UCLA, another powerhouse program comes to Ludwig on Monday: Akron.

Friday's night win over UCLA was a special moment for Maryland soccer. And that says a lot for a program with multiple national championships, plenty of trips to the College Cup, and plenty other great victories. But a young team, in front of a record crowd at Ludwig Field, scoring a goal in extra time over the #1 team in the nation is pretty special. Add in that they outplayed the Bruins for long stretches is perhaps the thing to be most  proud of and the best sign in the long run for this group. And while they met the #1 team on Friday, they'll be facing one of the few programs that's matched their success over the last decade: Akron.

The Zips won a National Title in 2010 after a runner-up finish in 2009. There's also another QF appearence, in 05, and six trips to at least the Last 16 from 2005 to 2011. But ever since coach Caleb Porter left town for the MLS' Portland Timbers, things haven't been the same for the Zips. In Porter's final season they lost in the Quarterfinals to a higher ranked seed, Creighton, on penalties. It was a loss in the Last 32 in 2013. And in 2014, after a 13-6-2 campaign, they lost in the first round. This season they were ranked in the Top 25 of three of the four major college soccer polls, but were well down in all three. So far they've beaten VCU 3-2 and Georgetown 1-0, while falling to Old Dominion 4-1.

This doesn't mean Akron is completely devoid of talent though. After all, they are Akron. They have a superb goalscorer from midfield in Adam Najem, who had 14 goals to go with four assists last campaign. Stuart Holthusen had four goals and three assists in just nine starts last season and is likely their biggest threat up top. Overall they ranked Top 30 in goals per game last season and Top 25 in Goals Against. Their defense is a unit that can handle balls in the air, so Maryland may have to look towards more quick interchanging passes and trying to get in behind as opposed to putting balls in the box.

The aforementioned duo of Najem and Holthusen will certainly be men to watch, but so will Sam Gainford who had two goals in their win over VCU. Both Gainford and Holthusen are solid with the ball at their feet and capable finishers, and have some pace as well. Balls over the top from Najem will be something to watch, as that was one of the few areas where Maryland really struggled vs UCLA. The Bruins were often able to use their speed to get in behind the Terps defense with flighted and chipped balls over the top. It's something they'll have to improve on, though Cody Neidermeier certainly looks like he'll be able to handle a lot of shots coming his way.

So far Maryland's attack has been very versatile and very effective. They've been on top and in control for large stretches in every game and have been able to employ different styles of attack at different times. The winner vs UCLA for example came from a wonderful Tsubasa Endoh cross that was met by Sebastian Elney for the winner. Often in that game Maryland would put two men on a wing looking to get an overlapping run (mostly with Diego Silva and Jake Areman) and put a cross in the box. As mentioned above, Akron's got a defense that likely will be able to deal well with balls in the box. So it could be more beneficial if Maryland looked to move the ball quickly through the midfield and try to play through balls behind the Zips defense and have their forwards try to make quick, instinctual runs to try to get on the end of those balls. But they've looked very impressive so far no matter what they were doing. Wouldn't put it past them to put goals past Akron in any number of ways,

Kickoff is tomorrow at 7 PM. You can watch via BTN2Go. Make sure to follow Maryland Men's Soccer on Twitter. There's Live Stats here: