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No. 7 Maryland men’s soccer vs. Ohio State preview

The second Big Ten match for the Terrapins is coming off a second straight two-goal outing.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 7 Maryland men’s soccer will head to Columbus, Ohio to take on Ohio State, kicking off the team’s upcoming slate of Big Ten games.

After starting conference play with a win over Michigan on Sept. 17, the Terrapins hosted the High Point Panthers and came away with a 2-0 victory. It was a slow game, but Maryland’s +10 shot margin set it up nicely for it to break through to emerge victoriously.

“I think we got really static with them sitting in and our movement got stagnant because we weren’t getting the ball as much,” forward Hunter George said on the methodical pace. “I think we just need to be more active all around.”

With the Buckeyes coming up, the Terps have not forgotten their latest matchup against Ohio State, one that ended in a 1-0 loss at home on Feb. 27.

“We’re definitely gonna be alert on their counter attacks,” midfielder Malcolm Johnston said. “We’ve seen that they’re again a good team, they have good individuals, a good coach and good program, but we just really need to make up for what happened last year.”

The game will take place at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m and can be watched on BTN Plus.

Ohio State Buckeyes (3-3-1)

2020-21 Record: 3-6-1 (3-5-1)

Head coach Brian Maisonneuve is in just his fourth year with the Buckeyes but has had a profound impact on the soccer landscape, both as a coach and player. Prior to joining the Ohio State staff, Maisonneuve served as associate head coach with Indiana, helping guide the Hoosiers to a national championship in 2012 and national runner-up in 2017. His eight-year tenure with Indiana was preceded by assistant gigs with Louisville and the United States U17 team. Those two tenures came after a nine-year career with the Columbus Crew and 13 caps at the international level with Team USA.

Since taking over the head coaching spot with the Buckeyes, they have not finished over .500, but this season (sitting at a .427 win percentage) has seen Ohio State play well against top-level talent. They held No. 4 West Virginia to a single goal, eventually losing 1-0 on Sept. 10. Five days later, the Buckeyes crossed paths with another ranked opponent, this time prevailing 1-0 against then-No. 7 Akron.

Players to know

Sophomore midfielder Laurence Wootton (No. 17) — After a two-goal outing in the season opener against Memphis, Wootton had endured a bit of a scoreless stretch before breaking that drought in Ohio State’s last game versus Cleveland State. The gap in scoring didn’t do too much damage to the 2020 Big Ten Freshman of the Year’s overall stats, as he remains atop the team in scoring with seven points on three goals and an assist. A force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten, Wootton looks to make his name known.

Senior midfielder Xavier Green (No. 11) — Along with Wootton, Green was on the radars of Big Ten coaches in the preseason watch list, and he has certainly lived up to the expectations. Green leads the team with a whopping 19 shots with seven of those being on goal and just two of those producing goals. He patrols the midfield well and has been a key cog in Ohio State’s system since his freshman season.

Senior goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin (No. 24) — In his first season at Ohio State following a four-year career with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, McLaughlin has translated his success to Columbus. Although a late bloomer at Notre Dame (didn’t appear in a match until his junior season), McLaughlin recorded three clean sheets in as many games in 2019 before producing five across 14 appearances in the spring 2021 season. This season, he has given up just four goals over five starts with two shutouts — both coming over his last two games.

Strength

Strong midfield. Despite the loss of midfielder Matteo Bennati, the Buckeyes boast a solid core of midfielders then control the tempo of the game well. The aforementioned Green and Wootton are joined by Brayden Durbin, Parker Grinstead and freshmen Anthony Samways and Joakim Jahnsen. They have the depth and versatility too, as seniors Luke Kiley and Joe Ortiz are true midfielders but have been utilized almost exclusively at forward and defender, respectively.

Weakness

Generating offense. Aside from a 13 shot, two-goal outing on Sept. 21 against Cleveland State, the Buckeyes have been one of the Big Ten’s worst teams in generating offense. Prior to the 2-0 win over the Vikings, Ohio State had a middling 1.167 goals per game average and second-worst 9.50 shots per game mark in the Big Ten. They have been shut out just once this year, yet two of its losses and its tie against Creighton saw the offense strike first but fall cold the rest of the way.

Three things to watch

1. How will the formation on the backline fare? Maryland has switched up its defense of late, going from a traditional 3-4-3 to a backline-heavy 4-3-3. In the last two games since switching to four defenders, the Terps have ceded just one score on 11 shots. Staples such as Brett St. Martin and Chris Rindov have provided structure and poise as pillars of the defense all year, but the return of Alex Nitzl and the emergence of freshman William Kulvik have been instrumental in Maryland’s recent stretch of success on the defensive end.

“We’re developing stronger relationships on the field, I think it’s allowing us to be a little bit more fluid in our movement,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “At this point things are looking pretty good in that formation, so we’ll stick with that. But, you know, we’re flexible in what we want to do and we can change that at minute’s notice.”

2. The Terps want more goals. Will they get ‘em? Attempting 15 shots and getting two goals (one on an own goal) against High Point does not satisfy Maryland’s aspirations in the scoring department. They want more. The high volume is there as they’ve gone all but one game this season executing double-digit shot attempts. But with the efficiency and chemistry the team is showing in the open field as of late, Cirovski and the rest of the unit are biting at the bit for an offensive explosion.

“We pride ourselves in being ruthless on attack and I would say over the last couple of years we have not been very menacing,” Cirovski said. “I think we’re starting to show some more quality in the attack and I think it might be shown in some areas, but we’re still a work in progress. I still think we can be much better than we are.”

3. Will Maryland get back to its winning ways versus the Buckeyes. Prior to Feb. 27, the Terps had defeated the Buckeyes five straight times. The loss not only dropped Maryland to 0-2 in the early moments of the spring season, but it stung to the point that Cirvoski called it “probably, the worst performance of the year.” While the Terrapins are approaching Friday’s match like against any other conference opponent, last season’s stunning home loss has put Maryland on notice.