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Maryland men’s soccer 2022 season preview

The departure of multiple stars and an influx of freshman coming in leaves this season a mystery.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

After a challenging 2020-21 season, Maryland men’s soccer caught fire last fall. The Terps finished the season as the No. 23 ranked team in the nation and No. 2 in the Big Ten.

Maryland squared off against the seventh-seeded Northwestern Wildcats in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, but neither team was able to score in four periods, forcing a penalty shootout. The Terps came up short, converting just two of their five penalty kicks.

This did not end Maryland’s season, however, as its stellar 12-3-1 regular season record earned the Terps their 21st straight College Cup berth. Similar to the Big Ten Tournament, Maryland’s offense struggled to find the back of the net, leading to a 1-0 loss at the hands of the Long Island Sharks.

Head coach Sasho Cirovski enters his 30th season at the helm of Maryland’s men’s soccer program, and while he does have a different roster this year, a 2-0-1 preseason record bodes well for the Terps.

Here is everything you need to know before Maryland’s first kickoff.

Key losses

The offseason has not treated Maryland too nicely, as they lost an abundance of impactful players, specifically on the offensive end.

The biggest departure was midfielder Ben Bender, who was selected by Charlotte FC with the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Bender earned All-Big Ten First Team honors and was named Big Ten Midfielder of the Year last season after leading the Terps in both goals (7) and assists (5). He was Maryland’s backbone over the last two seasons and his production will be hard to replace.

Some other notable losses include 2022 graduates Brett St. Martin, Justin Gielen and Brayan Padilla. Gielen and Padilla primarily came off the bench but made the most of their time on the field. The forward duo combined for five goals and two assists last season, providing a spark to an elite Maryland offense.

St. Martin, on the other hand, started in all 17 of his appearances and was spectacular as Maryland’s main defender. St. Martin was one of three Terps to make the All-Big Ten First Team and his leadership on and off the field will be missed.

Another key loss was forward Jacen Russell-Rowe. The sophomore played in all 18 matches and tallied nine points, the third-most on the team.

Returning players

While Maryland may have lost most of its star power on the offensive end, the Terps’ defense has remained mostly intact.

Defenders Alex Nitzl and Chris Rindov have been consistent starters for Maryland over the past two seasons, playing left and center back, respectively. Rindov also provides some offensive support that will need to be further explored this season after scoring two of his four shots on goal last year.

The goalkeeper tandem of Jamie Lowell and Niklas Neumann are also returning as the starting job is up in the air. Neumann was the starter in 2020-21, but a season-ending injury made room for Lowell to start the final eight games of the season.

Conversely, Lowell kept the job to begin the 2021 season, but he was struck by the injury bug and Neumann regained his spot and earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors. While naming the starter will be a difficult decision for Cirovski, both candidates are worthy.

The Swiss army knife that is midfielder Malcom Johnston is returning for his senior season, and his two goals in 2021 will come in handy this year. Senior forward Hunter George is returning as well in hopes that his preseason success continues in the regular season. George scored two of the Terps’ five goals in their three exhibition games.

Maryland’s once-polarizing youth movement has been watered down, but sophomores Joshua Bolma and William Kulvik displayed tremendous promise in their debut seasons. Each received All-Big Ten Freshman Team nods, and Bolma was also selected to the All-Big Ten First Team as well. After finishing second on the team in points (12) and goals (4), the keys to the offense belong to Bolma.

New additions

With so much talent on the move, Maryland will need major contributions from its newcomers.

The Terps are welcoming nine freshmen to College Park, including defenders Luca Costabile, Mack Devries and Brian St. Martin, the brother of Brett. Brian may be the Terps’ most-coveted recruit after being awarded a 2021 First-Team All-State selection in Maryland, but the Terps’ freshmen forwards may be the X-factor for this team.

Forwards Colin Griffith, Max Riley and Ethan Gregory were all certified scorers at the high school level, with Gregory being a First-Team All-State selection in Virginia. Riley has already showcased his offensive upside during preseason, tapping in a header from Kulvik to secure a 2-0 win against American.

Maryland has also made a splash in the transfer portal, bringing in two experienced forwards.

Junior Stefan Copetti spent his first two seasons at Marist College, where he started in 39 of his 41 matches played. He earned First-Team All-MAAC honors after finishing the season with nine goals and three assists and should provide the Terps solid depth.

Graduate student German Giammattei is one of the most decorated players in Division III men’s soccer history. He is the only D-III player to ever win consecutive USC National Player of the Year honors and has scored 45 goals over the course of his career at Amherst College. The leap to Division I may take some getting used to, but there’s no doubt that Giammattei has what it takes to contribute.

Looking forward

Maryland’s hunt for a fifth national championship begins on Aug. 25, when No. 9 New Hampshire makes the trip to College Park in what should be a challenging test. The Terps will then host Liberty and Denver before heading to Washington, D.C. to take on Virginia and No. 2 Georgetown, respectively.

Conference play begins in Ann Arbor on Sept. 16 when Maryland takes on Michigan in hopes of extending its two-game winning streak against the Wolverines.

Three nonconference matchups separate Maryland’s Big Ten schedule as the Terps will face off against Old Dominion on Sept. 30, High Point on Oct. 17 and Delaware on Oct. 25, all of which are at home.

Maryland will round out its 16-game regular season in Bloomington against No. 13 Indiana on Oct. 30.