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

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Pacific travels across the country to go up against the Terps on senior day.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Coming off of a three-goal outing against Northwestern last week, the No. 12 Maryland men’s soccer team fell back into bad habits on Tuesday versus Delaware.

Despite getting off 17 shots — which tied its third-largest output on the season — it took until the first overtime period for a goal to eventually fall. The 1-0 victory was closer than the Terps would’ve liked, but they got the job done off a fantastic goal from midfielder Ben Bender.

Saturday’s showdown against Pacific will be the final game before the Terrapins embark on a three-game stretch against Big Ten competition, which will last until the end of the regular season.

“I think the guys look sharp,” forward Brayan Padilla said. “We’re just working on the few little mistakes that we did last game and try to get sharper on the final third.”

The game against the Tigers will be broadcasted on BTN Plus at 7 p.m.

Pacific Tigers 6-3-1 (West Coast 1-0-1)

2020-21 Record: 2-7 (2-4)

Head coach Adam Reeves is in his third year with the Tigers after making the jump from Division II. Prior to joining Pacific’s coaching staff, he continued to grow the Cal Poly Pomona program into a national powerhouse in just two years at the helm. Alongside Yassi Raz, Reeves served as associate head coach during two deep NCAA Tournament runs — its first berth since 1998 and second ever. Once Reeves took over in 2017, he compiled 34 wins and continued the program’s success with consecutive national semifinal appearances.

Since moving to the Division I level, Reeves has compiled a 14-20-2 record. This season, Reeves has already matched his 2019 win total — his only full season with the team. This year has even included a top-10 victory over then-No. 9 Loyola Marymount.

Players to know

Senior midfielder Ryan Her (No. 8) — One of two preseason all-WCC team members, Her is tied atop the team’s leaderboard for goals scorers with three. One of those was a 79th minute penalty kick that turned out to be the golden goal in Pacific’s upset over then-No. 9 Loyola Marymount. Her played only 16 minutes in that contest and 52 in the following match — his two lowest tallies on the year. It’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues.

Senior midfielder Yazid Omri (No. 7) — Joining Her on the preseason list is Omri, who has compiled six points on the year with two goals and two assists. The senior from France has been an iron man for the Tigers this season, playing at least 80 minutes in all but two games. He helps guide a solid midfield for the Tigers and should be a tough match for the Terrapins all game long.

Senior goalkeeper Eric Cotton (No. 0) — While Cotton hasn’t had the best statistical season to date, he has not missed a game in goal. While he has pitched just a single shutout, it came in the biggest game of the season against then-No. 9 Loyola Marymount. While the numbers don’t pop for Cotton, he may be a surprise test for the Terrapin offense.

Strength

Scoring. Pacific leads the WCC in goals scored, averaging 1.7 per game. They have tallied double digit goals in 60 percent of its games, including a four-goal outburst against Cal State Bakersfield. They keep the game in its favor by running up the score, often controlling the tempo of the game and getting teams out of sync.

Weakness

Consistency in net. While Cotton has been as consistent as they come for the Tigers by playing every minute of every game, his performance hasn’t been as reliable. Just once has he shutout an opponent, leading to an inflated 1.47 goals allowed average. He has helped Pacific to victories this season, but he hasn’t made it easy by giving up so many goals.

Three things to watch

1. Can the offense find better production? After pouring on three scores against Northwestern, Maryland followed up that outing with a no score in regulation against Delaware. If it weren’t for Bender’s extra time goal, the Terps could have gone scoreless for the third time in their past four games. Nonetheless, that didn’t happen, so Maryland will aim to build off of the plenty of chances they created versus the Blue Hens, but failed to capitalize on.

“I think there’s a lot of positives to take out of the Delaware game,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We’ve done a good job over the last few games creating a few chances... we got to trust the process and we think that we’ll get the end results.”

2. How will Maryland look down the stretch? We are entering the home stretch of the regular season and before the Terps look back to conference play, Pacific comes to Ludwig. Its the first of four to end the regular season and this is the part of the season the Terrapins have been revving for. It’s not about how you start, but how you finish and that has been the mantra for Cirovski’s squad all season, drawing similarities to its 2018 national championship team’s mentality.

“We have the same level of talent as in 2018, it’s just so hard to win games in the Big Ten, it’s so hard to win games in the NCAA and you really have to outwork opponents,” defender Brett St. Martin said. “Talent alone isn’t going to be the team. Hopefully we’ll be going forward and really hitting our stride towards the end of the season.”

3. Sasho Cirovski was inducted into the Maryland Hall of Fame. Not much of a thing to watch for the upcoming match, but what an achievement for Maryland soccer’s legendary coach. Cirovski was inducted this past week.

“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized among so many great people that have played here or coached here or been builders here at this great university,” Cirovski said.

The players are proud of his success and think they have an edge on the field because of it.

“It’s actually a blessing for all of us,” Padilla said. “I think having a coach that has that much knowledge and experience just really helps build the team.”