No. 20 Maryland men’s soccer went into its season opener against No. 9 New Hampshire on Aug. 25 as underdogs, but walked away victorious. The Terps scored their second goal of the game in the 75th minute and were able to fend off a late-game surge, defeating the Wildcats, 2-1.
Senior forward Hunter George gave Maryland an early lead, scoring the first goal of the season in the 14th minute. It was freshman forward Colin Griffith who secured the win, however, tapping in a beautiful pass from redshirt sophomore midfielder Joshua Bolma as Maryland took a commanding 2-0 lead in the 75th minute.
The Terps’ stifling defense had New Hampshire in a straitjacket for most of the game, as the Wildcats attempted just one shot on goal which snuck past senior goalkeeper Niklas Neumann in the 83rd minute.
Maryland now shifts its focus and will try to improve to 2-0 for the second consecutive year. The Terps will host Liberty at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday night in what should be another exciting game at Ludwig Field.
Liberty Flames (1-0)
2021 record: 7-9 (3-4 ASUN)
Head coach Kelly Findley is entering his fourth season at the helm of Liberty’s men’s soccer program. With two decades of coaching experience under his belt, Findley was able to take the Flames to new heights in 2020-21. For the first time in program history, Liberty received a national ranking during the year, rising as high as No. 15. Findley has posted a 19-25 record while at Liberty, but the Flames are off to a solid start this season after defeating Radford, 3-0.
Players to know
Marko Mitrevski, senior midfielder, No. 6 — Mitrevski has been the Flames’ best player since joining the team two years ago. He has already racked up two ASUN All-Conference first team honors and a VaSID All-State first team selection. After scoring three goals last season, Mitrevski recorded one in Liberty’s season opener, perhaps foreshadowing a newfound scoring potential.
Seth Clark, junior midfielder, No. 11 — Clark is an elite playmaker alongside Mitrevski. He led the team in assists last season (6) while contributing one goal as well. This play earned him a spot on the ASUN All-Conference second team for the second consecutive year. Clark did not do much in the season opener, but expect that to change come Sunday.
Michael Huss, sophomore forward, No. 23 — Huss was a stud during his freshman season, scoring the second most goals on the team (4). With goal-leader Noah Holmes transferring to High Point, Huss should be the go-to guy for the Flames. He only played 21 minutes in the season opener, but made the most of it, attempting two shots and dishing out one assist.
Scoring. Despite a losing record, Liberty was proficient at scoring the ball last season. The Flames ranked third in their conference in goals scored (28), doing so in just 16 games. While there have been questions about whether Liberty can replicate this without Holmes, three goals in its first game seems to have answered that question.
Competition. Playing in the ASUN conference has its downsides. While Liberty may be able to improve its record by competing against inferior opponents, they do not have adequate experience against nationally-ranked opponents. Maryland is the highest-ranked opponent the Flames will play in seven years, which leaves them unprepared.
Three things to watch
1. How will Joshua Bolma fare against Liberty’s elite midfield duo? Bolma was absolutely electric in Thursday night’s season opener. Playing primarily as a midfielder, Bolma orchestrated both goals, but was only credited with one assist. With Mitrevski and Clark patrolling the middle for Liberty, Bolma will have his work cut out for him.
2. Will Liberty’s offense have the same success against the Terps’ defense? Three goals is a wildly impressive start for the Flames, whose front line has not had time to establish proper chemistry. On the other hand, Radford had a poor season defensively last year, as they allowed 40 goals on a .699 save percentage. By the end of Sunday night, we will know whether Liberty’s offense is legit.
3. Can Maryland continue its hot start? Taking down a top-10 opponent is no easy task and head coach Sasho Cirovski should be extremely proud of his troops. The Terps played nearly flawless on the offensive and defensive end of the pitch as they controlled the tempo throughout the match. If Maryland sees Liberty as a faceless opponent and plays to its potential, they should have no issue starting the season 2-0.