After 735 days, the “Battle for the DMV” is back in full force. The Labor Day matchup at Audi Field between the No. 11 Maryland men’s soccer team and Virginia has been a long time coming and head coach Sasho Cirovski has his squad buzzing heading into the pivotal showdown.
Maryland has started its 2021 fall season with a bang, jumping out to a 3-0 start and moving all the way up to No. 11 in the country after starting the year unranked.
Its previous outing against George Mason showcased even more versatility from the Terrapins, as two new scorers in forward Joshua Bolma and defender Chris Rindov made it seven different players in as many goals scored on the year.
The Terps are riding a massive wave of momentum into the “Battle for the DMV.” Look for the game on YouTube for streaming at 6 p.m.
Virginia Cavaliers (2-0)
2020-21 record: 7-8-1 (4-7-1)
Head coach George Gelnovatch is a two-time national champion during his tenure with the Cavaliers and has clinched an NCAA tournament berth in 24 of his 25 seasons. Now entering season No. 26, Gelnovatch looks to get his team back in pre-COVID form after enduring a difficult spring season.
After going 3-4-1 in the fall, Virginia struggled down the stretch in the spring, finishing the year on a three-game losing streak and missing out on postseason play. However, the unofficial No. 33 team in the country per the United Soccer Coaches poll figures to be back on track to making a postseason push behind the program’s all-time winningest coach.
Players to know
Junior defender Andreas Ueland, 6-foot-5, No. 17 — A third-team All-ACC selection last year and an ACC preseason watch list member this year is nothing compared to what Ueland has been able to accomplish on the field in two games this season. Not only has the Norwegian been a key cog on Gelnovatch’s defense, but his offensive game has shined to the tune of a team-leading two scores and an assist, good for five points. For a defender to be playing at the level Ueland is right now on both ends of the field, he could be a nightmare for opponents to deal with.
Senior forward Cabrel Happi Kamseu, 6-foot-3, No. 20 — While Ueland has taken the reigns of the offense through the first two games, Happi Kamseu has not been shy in trying to get his first goal of the season. Happi Kamseu’s playing time had fallen off following his All-ACC freshman team nod in 2018 — and that has lingered into this season with just 51 minutes played thus far. But if the Zimbabwean can make as big of an impact in the regular season as he has in postseason play (2019 ACC All-Tournament team and two goals scored in the 2020 ACC quarterfinal match), expect Gelnovatch to unload the imposing 6’3” forward.
Graduate student forward Daniel Wright, 5-foot-10, No. 23 — No team is complete without welcoming a seasoned graduate transfer who can move the ball and instantly gel with his new teammates. That for the Cavaliers is Wright, who in four seasons at Duke appeared in 74 total games, starting 44 of those, and finished with 30 career points. Wright too has been hindered in the scoring department by Ueland’s hot start, but his four shots are tied for first on the team, with two of those being shots on goal.
Aggressiveness on offense. Maryland better keep its eyes on this Virginia offense on Monday, because although they haven’t necessarily converted a whole lot with half of its goals being scored from the penalty box, the Cavaliers are not shy in piling on the shots. The Cavaliers have amassed 28 total shots in two games, with 12 of those being shots on goal. Contrarily, they don’t allow a ton of opportunities to opponents either, outmatching its two foes by a combined +21 margin.
Youth in goal. In all intents and purposes, sophomore goalkeeper Holden Brown has been a revelation thus far this season for Virginia. After not seeing action in net last season playing behind USL players Alex Rando and Colin Shutler, the sophomore has allowed just one goal on four saves in 180 minutes of action. He has been all Virginia could ask for in net, but is his youth going to be his downfall against a well-oiled machine like Maryland?
Three things to watch
1. How will Niklas Neumann perform in goal? Jamie Lowell has pitched two clean sheets in his two starts this season, but it will be Neumann in goal against Virginia. Head coach Sasho Cirvoski has been adamant about keeping a strict rotation between the two goalkeepers, and despite Lowell’s tremendous start to the season, Cirovski has no intention of deterring from his plan.
“They’re both perfect goalkeepers, they’re actually roommates and they push each other,” Cirovski said. “As long as we’re doing well and they’re doing well, we’ll continue [the rotation] and let things take care of themselves.”
2. Can Maryland keep up its diverse scoring prowess? Seven goals and seven different goal scorers for the Terps have come to define this season thus far. They have shown off their tremendously deep bench and have reaped the rewards of its versatility. Heading into Monday, will there be more new players to enter the scoring column? The top contenders to score their first of 2021 will be junior forward Hunter George and senior forward Brayan Padilla, who have each fired off six shots to no avail this year.
3. Are the Terps ready for battle? One might say the past two matchups for the Terps were tune-up matches against mid-major competition. That the two games, although impressive wins, may not be the type of competition that truly tested Maryland ahead of a highly-anticipated “Battle for the DMV.” No matter the competition, however, senior leadership is what will get this young Terrapin team over the hump at the neutral site.
“When I was here, there were a few great leaders like Eric Matzelevich and Johannes [Bergmann],” Rindov said. “I’ll just look up and try to do what they did when we were at Audi Field.”