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No. 11 Maryland men’s soccer vs. George Mason preview

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The Terps look to advance to 3-0 on the season.

UMTerps

With just over eight minutes remaining against UMBC, Maryland men’s soccer forward Jacen Russell-Rowe seemingly put the nail in the coffin after scoring the team’s fourth goal of the night. However, a goal seven seconds later followed by another in the 86th minute from the Retrievers suddenly gave the Terps a scare.

Maryland held on for the tight 4-3 victory, but it didn’t come without a tremendous test of mental toughness for the Terps.

The response to Maryland’s blunder down the stretch comes on Friday when the Terps host George Mason under the lights of Ludwig Field.

The game will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on BTN Plus.

George Mason Patriots (1-0-1)

2020-21 record: 0-6-3 (0-3-3)

Head coach Elmar Bolowich is only in his second season with the Patriots, but he does have a national championship to his name for his time with the North Carolina Tar Heels. In 2001, Bolowich reached the college soccer mountaintop, the first in program history. He spent ten more years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina before wrapping it up after 23 years and moving on to coach the Creighton Bluejays.

Upon arriving in Omaha, Nebraska Bolowich kept the program’s success intact, making the College Cup in his first two years. From there, Bolowich amassed 115 victories, including a 16-3-3 (.795) season in 2014, which was the highest win percentage in the country.

Players to know

Sophomore midfielder Louis Lehr (No. 10) has picked up the slack left behind by the leading shot taker in the spring, junior forward Kent Harrison, who played only 31 minutes in his lone appearance against Furman. The German Lehr leads the team with four shots in the two games and was credited the lone goal in George Mason’s shocking 1-1 draw against then-No. 11 Penn State.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jackson Lee (No. 1) compiled an impressive .800 save percentage in his freshman season and so far in 2021 has been keeping an ineffective offense in games. The Aussie made six saves in the season opener against Penn State and pitched a shutout in the follow-up matchup versus Furman. Lee should be in for a big year, although his impact may be limited by the offense’s struggles.

Graduate student forward Miles Montgomery (No. 28) is a graduate student who spent four years playing for Colorado College. There, he compiled five goals and 17 assists, including three goals and six assists in his senior season. What Montgomery brings to the Patriots is his durability, as the speedy forward has totaled 152 minutes and is tied with four other teammates with a team-leading two shots on goal.

Strength

Defense. While the offense may be a challenge, George Mason stays in games thanks to its defense. They have already shut out a team this year and pushed four of its games to extra time last season. Lee is the leader of the defense, but he is accompanied by the solid defender tandem of junior Jonathan Fawole and sophomore Noah McGrath, and German freshman Valentin Brandis

Weakness

Offense. You can’t get more general than this — George Mason’s offense was brutal to watch in the spring and it hasn’t looked much better in the fall. In nine games last season, George Mason scored a goal in two of those. The team ended its season on a 532-minute scoring drought. It was going to be hard for this season to be worse, but it still hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. A 1-1 tie against the Nittany Lions preceded a 1-0 victory against Furman, in which George Mason didn’t score until the 95th minute.

Three things to watch

1. The five-minute rule. UMBC scored twice within five minutes of the Terrapins scoring last week, a telltale sign of a lack of mental fortitude following the euphoria of a goal. It’s called the five-minute rule and Maryland fell right into the trance needed for the Retrievers to capitalize. The Terps will have plenty of chances to score thanks to its high octane offense, but the question to be asked is how will they respond to the score?

“It’s critical,” Cirovski said. “You become either vulnerable or the other team is vulnerable, and in the past game we were the vulnerable team, so we’ll get better from that.”

2. Who will be the next to score? Five goals, five different goal scorers. That has been the story on offense for the Terrapins so far this season — depth and variety. So many skilled players pass through head coach Sasho Cirovski’s rotation that anybody is a threat to score if given the opportunity (which have also come in abundance thanks to five different players totaling six assists). Redshirt junior defender Nick Richardson believes redshirt freshman midfielder Joshua Bolma has got next.

“He’s just gotten better each day and he’s proven throughout these last couple of games that he’s just kind of adapted to the style and what he’s gonna bring to the college game,” Richardson said. “He unfortunately hasn’t had the tribute to score a goal yet, but I think only time will tell how good he is gonna be.”

3. How conditioned will the Terps be after a week off? Conditioning has been the number one component that Cirovski has wanted his team to value the most. Coming off so many injuries from the spring and a short offseason has made depth and conditioning as important as it has ever been in a collegiate soccer season. In Maryland’s case, cycling players more frequently during games and taking a cautious approach during breaks is paramount. It’s been almost a week since the Terrapins played last, so we will see if the extended time off has done wonders for Maryland’s physical and mental wellbeing on the pitch.