Time is running out for Maryland men’s soccer. With a 1-3-2 record, the program is off to its worst start to a season since head coach Sasho Cirovski took over in 1993.
In their last match, the Terps lost to Penn State, 1-0, with the lone goal resulting from an ill-advised pass by goalkeeper Mikah Seger. Maryland was outshot in the game, 10-9, and had only three corner kicks to Penn State’s nine.
The Terps will press on with their challenging Big Ten schedule with a matchup against Wisconsin on Sunday.
The game will begin at 1 p.m. and stream on Big Ten Plus.
Wisconsin Badgers (3-2-3, 0-0-2 Big Ten)
2022 record: 6-6-4 (3-4-1 Big Ten)
Head coach Neil Jones took charge of the program in 2022, succeeding John Trask. Before joining the Badgers, Jones had a successful nine-year stint at Loyola Chicago, during which he led the Ramblers to two NCAA Tournament appearances. As a player, Jones served as a two-time captain for UC Santa Barbara, helping it reach the 2004 national championship game.
The Badgers had a promising start to the season, with three consecutive victories, including a 1-0 win over then-No. 2 Kentucky.
However, they have not won a game since. In their most recent match, the Badgers erased a two-goal second-half deficit to manage a draw against Northwestern, with midfielder Tim Bielic scoring the tying goal in the 86th minute.
Players to know
Tim Bielic, graduate midfielder, No. 10 — Bielic led Wisconsin with six assists last season and earned a spot on the All-Big Ten freshman team in 2021. So far this season, he has two goals in six starts with a shooting percentage of .400.
Maxwell Keenan, senior midfielder, No. 8 — Keenan was Wisconsin’s top performer last year, leading the team with seven goals and 16 points. He started this season on a strong note, being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Aug. 29. To date, he has one goal and three assists in eight games.
Nate Crockford, junior goalkeeper, No. 1 — The stalwart keeper transferred from UCLA ahead of the season after leading the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament’s third round last season.
Crockford earned a spot in Top Drawer Soccer’s National Team of the Week earlier this season.
Playing up to competition. The Badgers have excelled against ranked opponents, winning all three matchups. Their 1-0 victory over Kentucky was particularly impressive, as they outshot the Wildcats, 13-4.
Offensive production. Wisconsin averages the second-lowest points per game average (2.4) in the Big Ten. And while they rank fourth in shots on goal per game (12.9), the Badgers have faced challenges in converting those opportunities.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland respond? This has been a recurring question, as the Terps have continued to deliver lackluster performances this season. Despite being predicted to finish first in the Big Ten preseason poll, the Terps have struggled.
Expect Cirovski to keep experimenting with lineups and making quick substitutions in search of the perfect combination.
2. Can the Terps score quickly? Maryland is 1-0-0 when scoring first, highlighting the significance of an early advantage. Playing catch-up soccer has made them more mistake-prone, contributing to defensive lapses. While an aggressive approach may carry risks, it’s a potential solution considering recent results.
3. Will traveling cause fatigue? The Terps have a home-heavy schedule in 2023, and the quick travel from Penn State to Wisconsin presents a potential challenge. It will be intriguing to see if Maryland can muster the motivation and energy from the opening whistle, despite a disappointing start to the season.