There’s little doubt that Maryland men’s soccer frequently boasts a talented roster. Having won the national championship three times in the 21st century — most recently in 2018 — its reputation speaks for itself.
But the Terps failed to reach their ultimate goal last year, falling in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after compiling an 11-4-5 regular season record. That’s not to say there weren’t positives for head coach Sasho Cirovski’s side, which won the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time since 2016.
In its first match of the season, Maryland took down No. 9 New Hampshire on home turf, 2-1. The Terps would then go on to beat three more ranked opponents.
Now, Cirovski enters his 31st season in College Park with aspirations to lead No. 14-ranked Maryland to its fifth national title.
Here is everything you need to know before Maryland’s first kickoff.
Maryland lost a bevy of offensive talent this offseason.
Most notably, the Terps will be without one of their most electrifying playmakers from last season, Joshua Bolma. He was named to the All-Big Ten first team last season and became just the fourth Terp ever to do so twice. The speedster was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution. On July 15, Bolma made his MLS debut when he came off the bench in a 4-0 win over D.C. United.
Maryland will also have to replace Malcolm Johnston, who graduated after four successful seasons in College Park. The midfielder tallied six goals and eight assists in 2022 en route to All-Big Ten first-team honors.
The Terps will also look to fill two gapping holes on defense without former captains Nick Richardson and Chris Rindov. They were the only Terps to start all 20 games and amassed the most minutes played, combing for 2,521.
During his five years with Maryland, Richardson established himself as one of the premier right backs in the nation. The versatile defender notched three goals and eight assists last year and and was selected as a third-team All-American by the United Soccer Coaches.
Starting at center back, Rindov was the Terps’ most important player in the defending third. Standing at 6-foot-2, Rindov was crucial as both an attacker and defender in set pieces. The 2022 All-Big Ten first-team member notched two goals — both of which were products of set pieces — and one assist in his final season as a Terp.
Other notable departures include forward Hunter George, midfielder Griffin Dillon and forward German Giammattei. They started a combined 40 games and amassed a total of 26 combined goals and assists.
A considerable number of starters will be back in the fold, which should allow for the on-field chemistry to continue to grow.
Goalkeeper Jamie Lowell should see significant time in net this season after backing up Niklas Neumann in 2022. The senior has ample experience, having amassed over 1,600 minutes and making 53 career saves. Sophomore goalkeeper Mikah Seger, who did not see game action in 2022, also returns.
Although Maryland’s defense lost Rindov and Richardson, it retained three key pieces. Alex Nitzl has seen consistent playing time over the past three years, spending last season primarily in a deep-lying midfielder role. Meanwhile, junior William Kulvik blossomed into a star, earning a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award and scoring a pair of goals in 2022. And Luca Costabile didn’t take long to make a strong impression in College Park, having been unanimously selected to the All-Big Ten freshman team.
The Terps will have some turnover in the midfield, though, with the departures of Bolma, Johnston and Dillon.
Sophomore Albi Ndrenika is a prime candidate to secure a starting role. Despite missing the first 10 games of the season due to injury, Ndrenika still made two starts and scored twice, including the Terps’ lone goal against Cornell in the NCAA Tournament.
Other familiar faces include redshirt junior Joe Suchecki and graduate student Justin Harris, who were both key cogs off the bench in 2022. Suchecki started 11 matches, while Harris scored twice and played 374 minutes in 18 games off the bench.
The attacking unit will see two of its four starters return to action this fall.
Senior Stefan Copetti, who transferred to College Park in 2022 following a successful stint at Marist, is the top returner. Copetti tallied six goals and three assists last year.
Meanwhile, sophomore Colin Griffith rose to the occasion, starting six games and scoring three goals as a true freshman. Other returning forwards include sophomore Max Riley and senior Seungeon Kim.
As has been familiar in recent memory, Maryland boasts a top class of incoming freshman.
On defense, Tyler Prebenda and Joe McDaid will look to garner playing time. Prebenda was a star on the Orlando City Academy squad, playing every minute in his team’s run to the U-17 MLS Next Playoff semifinals. McDaid was a High School All-American in 2022 and was named the All-American game East Team MVP.
Henrik Sakshaug, Cameron Gerber, Jack McDaid, Kenny Quist-Therson and Leon Koehl join the midfield. Sakshaug probably has the best chance to make an immediate impact, scoring 13 goals last season for San Antonio FC and winning the USL Championship. Jack McDaid, Joe’s twin brother, was a High School All-American and was a U-17 MLS Next Cup semifinalist in 2021.
The incoming talent at forward includes Kimani Stewart-Baynes and Luke van Heukelum. Stewart-Baynes played 14 matches, logged 1,019 minutes and scored 17 goals for the Vaughan U-19 team. Meanwhile, van Heukelum was honored as a 2022 United Soccer Coaches All-American.
Maryland also added graduate transfer Bjarne Thiesen from West Virginia. The defender started in all 48 of his appearances and was named to the 2022 All-Sun Belt second team.
The Terps’ 2023 season opener is on Aug. 24 when they take on Missouri State. They will then face a challenging test with four ranked opponents scheduled in a row: No. 10 UNC-Greensboro, No. 18 Wake Forest, No. 15 Virginia and No. 17 Georgetown.
Maryland begins its stretch of Big Ten contests on Sept. 14 against Michigan, with three non-conference opponents — Bowling Green, Villanova and Navy — dividing the conference slate.
The Terps will conclude their 16-game season on Oct. 29 at Ohio State.