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No. 9 Maryland men’s soccer vs. No. 13 Ohio State preview

The Terps take on their toughest Big Ten opponent yet.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

No. 9 Maryland men’s soccer began conference play on Sept. 16 when it upended Michigan, 2-1. Just a few days later, the Terps squared off against the 2021 Big Ten champs in Penn State.

Maryland got on the board early thanks to redshirt senior defender Nick Richardson, who scored his second career goal in the 17th minute. The lead did not last long, though, as the Nittany Lions fired back in the 20th minute.

Reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Peter Mangione helped Penn State take the lead before halftime as he lifted the ball just over junior goalkeeper Jamie Lowell’s head for the score.

After making some adjustments, the Terps were fierce to begin the second half, scoring in the 51st minute and again in the 70th minute. Similar to the first half, Maryland held the lead for five minutes before Penn State junior defender Tyger Evans converted a penalty kick.

Neither team scored in the final 15 minutes as the game ended in a 3-3 tie.

“I thought that we had a lot of opportunities [against] Penn State to get on the board. Twice at key moments in the game and it’s something we want to be better at,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said.

With Penn State in the past, Maryland has shifted its focus to Ohio State. The home match will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday and will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.

Ohio State (5-0-3, 1-0 Big Ten)

2021 record: (6-9-1, 2-6)

Head coach Brian Maisonneuve is in his fifth season at the helm of the program. Maisonneuve did not achieve immediate success as the Buckeyes closed out the 2018 season with just one win. Ohio State finished with a losing record in each of the next three seasons, but things are different this year. The Buckeyes are undefeated and have beaten some worthy opponents in Butler and Indiana.

Players to know

Laurence Wootton, junior midfielder, No. 8 — Wootton has been one of the lone bright spots for Ohio State over the last two seasons. He was the only Buckeye to make an all-conference team last year, his second All-Big Ten first team selection. Since arriving in Columbus, he has tallied nine goals and five assists. Wootton’s production has dipped a little this year, recording two goals and one assist, making room for his teammates to step up.

Marko Borkovic, freshman midfielder, No. 17 — Borkovic is a welcomed addition to this roster. Through his first seven games as a collegiate athlete, Borkovic leads the Buckeyes in points (7) and goals (3). He has primarily come off the bench this season, starting in three of his seven appearances, but is making an immediate impact.

Keagan McLaughlin, senior goalkeeper, No. 1 — McLaughlin previously had not played much over his six-year collegiate career. During his four years at Notre Dame, he appeared in just 17 games. After a solid 2021 campaign, in which he made 29 saves across nine games, McLaughlin has been on fire this year. He is second in the nation in save percentage (.947) and is a massive reason why no one can score on the Buckeyes.

Strength

Defense. The biggest reason why Ohio State sits at the top of the Big Ten standings is its stout defense. The Buckeyes are ninth in the nation in shutout percentage (.625), 15th in goals allowed per game (.625) and 25th in save percentage (.808). While Maryland attempts a lot of shots, it will be difficult for them to convert.

Weakness

Experience. Ohio State has not been in many highly competitive games over the last few seasons. The Buckeyes have yet to make it to the NCAA Tournament and have not made it past the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals under Maisonneuve. While Ohio State does have a lot of upperclassmen, it will be interesting to see if Maryland can speed them up.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terps step it up on the defensive end? Maryland forfeited a season-high three goals against Penn State on Tuesday night. Two of them were a result of sloppy play as the Nittany Lions scored off a corner kick and penalty kick. If the Terps give Ohio State these same opportunities, they could lose their first game since Sept. 2.

“I think we’ve been sloppy and casual at times. I think we have to be a little bit more precise in our build up and recognize danger a bit more,” Cirovski said.

2. Chris Rindov is getting the recognition he deserves. Senior defender Chris Rindov has been a staple in Maryland’s backline since walking onto the team in 2019. He helped the Terps shut out Michigan in the second half and was awarded Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week as a result, the first of his career. Rindov has scored two goals thus far and has been a driving factor toward the Terps’ top-10 status. After a disappointing defensive performance, Maryland will need Rindov to defeat the Buckeyes.

“Every time I talk about Chris I have warmth coming out of my heart because he’s such a good young man. [He has] such a good story and it’s well deserved recognition for the way he’s played,” Cirovski said.

3. Ohio State is the team to beat. After ranking last in the Big Ten’s preseason poll, the Buckeyes have climbed the conference standings. Ohio State is the only team in the Big Ten without a loss and are the team to beat. Maryland has not won the Big Ten in four years, and this could be its starting point.