Coming off its worst stretch of the season, No. 8 Maryland men’s soccer will look to bounce back against Michigan State in College Park.
It’s been three games since the Terps last won, and their nine-game unbeaten streak came to an end Monday night.
Maryland faced off against High Point and did not have its usual intensity. After obtaining a 1-0 lead at halftime, the Terps got a little too comfortable and made crucial mistakes.
The first occurred just three minutes into the second half when sophomore defender William Kulvik attempted to clear the ball away from the net. However, Kulvik accidentally sent the ball into his own goal and erased Maryland’s lead.
Sophomore midfielder Griffin Dillon was responsible for the second error that sealed the Terps’ fate. Dillon passed the ball to freshman defender Luca Costabile, but the two were not on the same page. The ball trickled past Costabile and into the hands of High Point. The Panthers then stormed down the field and finished off the fast break with the final goal of the game in the 76th minute.
“We’ve just tried to follow the last game and kind of put that to rest, and we all took it pretty hard. But now, you know, we’re just trying to get the minds clear and the hearts ready,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said.
With the regular season coming to an end, Friday night’s match against Michigan State becomes even more important. The game will begin at 7 p.m. and be streamed on BTN Plus.
Michigan State Spartans (6-5-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten)
2021 record: 6-9-2 (2-4-2 Big Ten)
Head coach Damon Rensing is in his 24th season with the program and 14th at the helm. In his first 11 seasons as head coach, Rensing led the Spartans to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and the team’s first Final Four appearance in 50 years in 2018. Michigan State has struggled over the last three seasons — including a 3-12-3 clip in 2019 — but is looking solid this year and is fourth in the Big Ten standings.
Players to watch
Jack Beck, graduate midfielder, No. 2 — Beck has been one of the Spartans’ best players over the last few seasons. He led the team in scoring with two goals in his junior season before having a career year in 2021. Beck led the Big Ten in assists per game (.412) as he conducted a solid Michigan State offense. Beck has taken a bit of a back seat this season, but his leadership and experience is unmatched.
Greyson Mercer, junior forward, No. 9 — Mercer made just 13 appearances in his first two seasons but has been a consistent starter this year. The junior has started in 10 of 13 games and leads the team with four goals. Mercer is an offensive threat that the Terps need to account for.
Jonathan Stout, freshman forward, No. 6 — Stout is an absolute stud who continues to earn the trust of his coaches. He has played in just eight matches — starting in three of them — and is tied for first on the team in points (10) with three goals and four assists. Stout’s confidence is growing and he should be a unanimous All-Big Ten freshman team selection by the end of the season.
Sharing the ball. Despite ranking in the bottom half of the Big Ten in total goals (21), the Spartans are third in assists (26). This is a common trend for Michigan State, which ranked fourth in assists last season with 23. The Spartans only have four unassisted goals this year, three of which were penalty kicks.
Defeating ranked opponents. Michigan State does not have many weaknesses, but its biggest may be the fact that it has yet to defeat a ranked opponent. The Spartans played then-No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 14 Akron, No. 4 Washington and No. 16 Indiana, losing to all of them except Indiana, whom they tied. In order to beat the Terps, Michigan State will have to accomplish something it has yet to do all year.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland cash in on its opportunities? Over the past three games, the Terps attempted 32 shots, 13 more than their opponents. Despite this, Maryland only scored four goals and posted a 0-1-2 record over that span. If the Terps want to remain at the top of the Big Ten standings, they need to be more efficient.
“Usually as you get later in the season, you get fewer chances. So, we have to become a little bit more efficient in the chances that we get,” Cirovski said.
2. What will the Terps’ starting lineup look like? Maryland changes its starting lineup nearly every game. While these changes are not drastic, Cirovski likes to give his opponents different looks, especially on the offensive end. Things are different now, though, as the Terps have not been able to produce on offense or defense lately. It will be interesting to see if Cirovski shakes things up, especially with senior midfielder Malcolm Johnston and graduate forward German Giammattei dealing with injuries.
3. Maryland needs to clean up the mistakes. The Terps have made careless decisions all season long, but their talent has often bailed them out. This was not the case on Monday night, however, as their errors finally caught up to them. Kulvik’s own goal and Dillon’s turnover gave High Point’s offense life, which was neutralized for the majority of the match. As Cirovski said, Maryland is “the most gracious team in America’’ and its mistakes need to be ironed out before postseason play.
“I think overall our performance and our play has been very encouraging,” Cirovski said. “We’ve caused our own problems, you know. We’ve given up I think some very preventable goals and maybe some soft goals.”