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No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer vs. Michigan preview

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The Terrapins look for a bounce back victory in its Big Ten opener Friday night.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer faced its toughest test in the young season when it hit the road to face off against No. 1 Georgetown on Sept. 11. The result wasn’t what the Terrapins were searching for as the team seemed a step behind the top-ranked Hoyas on both sides of the ball, leading to a 1-0 defeat.

The loss ended Maryland’s perfect start to its season and subsequently pushed the Terps down a spot in the United Soccer Coaches rankings.

“I think during the week we kind of focused too much on how we were going to defend them instead of focusing more towards the strengths we have on our team,” forward Brayan Padilla said. “From now on focusing more on our qualities and playing to our strengths would definitely benefit more to us. Making teams more afraid of us more than us being afraid of what they can do to us.”

With the marquee matchup behind them, Maryland will turn its focus to what should be a competitive return to Ludwig Field as they take on Michigan in its Big Ten opener.

It will be Friday night lights on Sept. 17, with kick-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.

Michigan Wolverines (3-2-1)

2020 record: 6-4-1 (5-3-1)

Head coach Chaka Daley has done a nice job in molding the Wolverine program into more of a consistent presence on the national stage. Becoming the second head coach in program history in 2012, Daley has revived the Wolverines in recent years, including a Big Ten regular-season title in 2017 and three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2017-2019. Prior to his tenure in Ann Arbor, Daley spent 12 seasons at the helm for the Providence Friars.

This season, Michigan started off with two games that went into double overtime. The first against Detroit Mercy ended in a tie while the second against Oakland, the Wolverines walked away with the victory. Since then Michigan has defeated Loyola Chicago and most recently, Chicago State. Michigan dropped games against then-No. 24 Duke and then-No. 12 New Hampshire.

Players to know

Sophomore midfielder Bryce Blevins (No. 11) — Blevins is one of three stars in the midfielder for the Wolverines. Like the other two, the sophomore was selected to the preseason Big Ten players to watch list after his ascension to the top of Daley’s depth chart. His freshman season saw Blevins make seven starts and appear in all 11 games, logging 550 minutes en route to All-Big Ten Freshman honors.

Sophomore midfielder Quin Rogers (No. 6) — Rogers joined Blevins an All-Big Ten Freshman in the spring season, and he too established the Wolverines with one of the best young tandems in the midfield within the conference. He started all 11 games last season and this year has started all five games he has appeared in, missing the season-opening draw versus Detroit Mercy on Aug. 26.

Senior midfielder Marc Ybarra (No. 23) — The leader of the Michigan midfield, Ybarra’s steady presence has him as the reigning Big Ten midfielder of the year. He broke out as an All-Big Ten Second Team selection in his junior year, tallying eight assists and playing every minute of every game. He followed that up with a spring season that saw him rise up to first-team all-Big Ten status as he led the team with 10 points.

Strength

Moving the offense. With such a rock-solid midfield, Michigan has no trouble moving the ball and setting up ample opportunities. They are poised with the leadership of Ybarra and set up nicely with dynamic options such as Blevins and Rogers. This has helped Michigan average 14.5 shots per game, tied with Rutgers for the top mark in the conference. They have also outshot their opponent 87-42, showing that the midfield frequently keeps the ball in their possession.

Weakness

Availability. Whereas Maryland has rolled out 12 different players for each of its five games, Michigan has supplied just five regulars on the field in its six matches. This could be a personal choice from Daley to keep his players fresh, but going up against a Maryland team that rolls out several pieces from its bench, it may be tough for the Wolverines to keep up with the fresh legs the Terps should churn out on Friday.

Three things to watch

1. Maryland’s response to entering the loss column. The loss to Georgetown was not the result the Terrapins were searching for, but now that that’s in the rearview, it will be all about rebounding off of the 1-0 road defeat. It’s not a unique situation to teams across the country, but in Maryland’s case, after going into a game with such high stakes, all eyes will be on how they respond, especially considering a conference opener awaits.

“Our possession and our passing is something that needs to be better,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Like I said before the Georgetown game, I think it will serve a very good purpose for us and we think we’ll be stronger because of playing that game.”

2. How aggressive will the offense be in the opening half? It was a lackadaisical start to last weekend’s matchup that set Maryland up for defeat, as the Hoyas were just a step ahead of the Terps. In order to return to the win column, Maryland will need to get the ball rolling early. They have gone two straight matches without a first-half goal, so clicking on offense in the opening 45 will go a long way in determining a winner.

3. Michigan will be seeking revenge. The last time Maryland played Michigan, the Terps traveled to Ann Arbor and defeated the Wolverines, 2-1, to clinch Cirovski’s 400th career win at Maryland. That result paid dividends come Selection Sunday, as Maryland sneaked past Michigan as one of the last teams in the NCAA Tournament. Revenge should be fresh on the mind for the Wolverines — especially given the brief five-month timeframe since the announcement.

“Having that in-conference experience and intensity definitely brings it up a level,” defender Chris Rindov said. “Now we’re playing for more than just our RPI, we’re playing for the Big Ten regular season and potential tournament spot. So I know everyone is definitely working hard on playing as intense as they can.”