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No. 12 Maryland men’s soccer vs. Delaware preview

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The Terrapins kick off a two-game stretch of non-conference games against Delaware.

After a disappointing two-game stretch in which the No. 12 Maryland men’s soccer team compiled a 0-1-1 record and scored no goals, its offense came alive in its most recent outing against Northwestern.

The Terrapins entered halftime tied at one, but a second-half onslaught that featured a +14 shot disparity set the tone for a huge bounce-back effort as Maryland prevailed 3-1.

Maryland will take a two-game hiatus from Big Ten play starting on Tuesday with its against Delaware. The last meeting between the two was in 2016 when the top-ranked Terps barely escaped a valiant effort from the Blue Hens, coming out on top in double overtime.

Catch the game at 7 p.m. on FloFC when the Terps will look to make it two wins in a row.

Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens (1-8-1, 0-5 CAA)

2020-21 Record: 2-1-2 (1-1-2)

Head coach Ian Hennessy is in his 16th season with the Blue Hens, seeing a large chunk of success in the mid-2010s where the team landed two NCAA Tournament berths. Between 2014 and 2016, Hennessy’s squad posted 10 or more wins in each year, leading to a 2014 CAA regular season title and 2016 conference tournament title.

This year has been a disappointment for the Blue Hens, as the defense has allowed two or more goals in all but three of its games. Its lone victory is over UMBC, a team Delaware defeated 3-1.

Players to know

Junior defender Aron Adalsteinsson, 6-foot-2, No. 6 — As the lone Blue Hen to be named to the preseason All-CAA team, Adalsteinsson missed a stretch of games following the season opener against Rutgers, but has since returned to form and has been a steady presence on the defense. Since returning to the lineup, he has logged 80+ minutes in all but one match. While Delaware’s defense isn’t its strong suit, Adalsteinsson has grown into a solid leader.

Sophomore forward Carlos Fernandez, 6-foot-1, No. 9 — Fernandez has stood out on the offensive end in his first season in Newark, Delaware. Since October began, Fernandez has assisted on all three goals scored across the two games played thus far. This has added to the sophomore’s tremendous season stat line of three goals and four assists on ten points.

Graduate student midfielder Tiago Santos, 5-foot-8, No. 10 — Another newcomer to Newark is Santos from Portugal. He trails only Fernandez in shot attempts with 18, five of which being on goal, yet no scores to show for it. Santos has an assist on the year, but his impact perusing the midfield goes far beyond the stat sheet.

Strength

The Blue Hens hang around. There really hasn’t been much to be optimistic about with the Blue Hens other than the fact they have shown that they can hang around with its opponents. Delaware has gone shot for shot with difficult opponents like Rutgers and Seton Hall and aside from lopsided affairs against UNCW and Hofstra, the Blue Hens have been able to generate somewhat even shot numbers.

Weakness

Defense. Delaware’s defense nearly allows three goals a game (2.70), a mark that has put the Blue Hens in severe trouble night in and night out. The team lacks consistency in goal, with three different goalkeepers having started in net this season. Not only that, but the offense’s inability to offer consistent possession — highlighted by a -28 corner kick differential — has kept the defense busy.

Three things to watch

1. What will the defense look like this time around? There were a lot of question marks surrounding the Terrapin defense against Northwestern and a change in formation made those uncertainties even more prevalent. A switch back to a 4-3-3 instead of a 3-4-3 is something that Maryland has been running of late.Head coach Sasho Cirovski takes great pride in his team’s game-planning and ability to switch up its scheme at a moment's notice.

With defender Brett St. Martin eligible to return and defender William Kulvik showing no signs of fatigue with his ankle, Maryland’s defense is poised to be back at full strength. The main question mark heading into this matchup, however, is which formation will be featured.

2. Will the nonconference slate be a distraction? Maryland is on the cusp of winning the Big Ten regular season title if it can manage to finish out its schedule strong. Maryland faces an undefeated Penn State team that leads the Terps by two points in the standings and a difficult Indiana opponent.. BBut, those matchups come after a pair of nonconference games, starting against Delaware and finishing with a match versus Pacific at the end of the week. Maryland is no stranger to this format in its schedule, but nonetheless, the Terps will have to keep up the physicality seen in conference play through this next week of non-conference opponents.

3. Is the offense’s second-half explosion a sign of things to come? After going 267 minutes without a score, Maryland’s offense came alive against Northwestern. They got off 26 shots, including 15 in the second half compared to the Wildcats’ one. It was a testament to just how dominant the Terrapin offense has the potential to be when everything is clicking. It will be interesting to see if this onslaught was just a fluke or if it's a foreshadow of how Maryland’s offense is finally starting to come together.