Expectations are sky-high for No. 14 Maryland men’s soccer, as it prepares for its first test of the season in a home matchup with Missouri State.
Missouri State boasted an impressive 12-2-4 record during the 2022 campaign, going undefeated in conference play. The Bears captured their third straight conference title in a 1-0 win over Evansville. However, their NCAA Tournament journey came to a close abruptly, as they lost to Creighton, 2-1, in the first round.
Thursday’s match is set for 8:30 p.m. and will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.
Missouri State Bears (0-0-0, 0-0-0 MVC)
2022 record: (12-2-4, 6-0-2 MVC)
Head coach Michael Seabolt has been an integral part of Missouri State men’s soccer since 2007, originally overseeing all recruiting. He was named the program’s head coach on Jan. 1, 2022. During his time with the Bears, they have won 10 MVC regular-season championships, three MVC Tournament titles and have made six NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2021, as head coach designate, Seabolt ushered the Bears to a nation-best 17-2-0 record. He has coached 24 All-American selections in his 16 seasons with the team.
Players to watch
Kian Yari, senior midfielder, No. 8 — Yari has been a mainstay in the Bears’ midfield since 2021. He’s been named to an all-conference team in each of the past three seasons and was a United Soccer Coaches All-American selection in 2021. Last year, Yari placed eighth in the MVC in points (13) and second in assists (5). He also notched two game-winning goals.
Harry Townsend, senior goalkeeper, No. 1 — Twice named the MVC Defensive Player of the Week in 2022, Townsend was effectively a brick wall in net for the Bears. He helped the squad to 12 shutouts and allowed just 11 goals during the season. Townsend also logged a team-high 1,620 minutes played and registered an impressive .795 save percentage. His 43 saves ranked second in the MVC.
Michael Peck, junior defender, No. 5 — Peck was a workhorse for the Bears last season, starting every match and recording 1,429 minutes played. He also assisted goals in wins over Evansville and Belmont. In 2021, he was a member of the All-MVC freshman team.
Offense. It’s tough to say whether Missouri State is more adept at offense or defense, having dominated the MVC in nearly every major statistical category on both sides of the ball. But last season, the Bears accumulated 323 shots, which was 72 more than the next closest team in the MVC. They also led the conference in goals (38) and assists (42).
Roster turnover. The scorching offense deployed by Missouri State in 2022 lost some of its firepower in the offseason. Forward Nicolo Mulatero, who led the MVC in both goals (9) and points (22), graduated. In addition, defender Lewis Green is no longer with the Bears. Last season, he amassed 11 points, which ranked top-10 in the conference.
Three things to watch
1. Maryland’s new faces. How will the pecking order shape up this fall when it comes to the Terps’ latest recruits? Who will rise above the rest? It will be interesting to see if any of the incoming freshmen can make a name for themselves on a roster that’s already chock-full of talent. In addition, what will graduate transfer Bjarne Thiesen bring to the table on defense after a number of impressive years at West Virginia? Thursday should serve as an early glimpse into head coach Sasho Cirovski’s lineup strategy going forward.
2. How will the midfield shape out? After losing star midfielders Joshua Bolma and Malcolm Johnston, it will be interesting to see who steps up to fill the void. The process itself could be difficult, considering redshirt junior Joe Suchecki and graduate student Justin Harris have previously played significant minutes primarily off the bench. Freshmen Henrik Sakshaug and Jack McDaid will be two names to keep an eye on early in the season.
3. How will the Terps fair in goal? Niklas Neumann was Maryland’s go-to keeper since he arrived as a freshman. However, Neumann graduated in the spring, passing the starting spot down to Jamie Lowell, who was Neumann’s primary backup for the last three years. Lowell does have ample experience, though, starting in 18 games throughout his career.