No. 20 Maryland men’s soccer was mere inches away from securing its second victory of its 2023 campaign Friday night.
The Terps were locked in a physical battle with Wake Forest, trading punches throughout the course of the match. Midfielder Justin Harris and forward Stefan Copetti had prime scoring opportunities for Maryland, the latter being thwarted on a 70th minute penalty kick. The final 20 minutes contained some of the most tense, fast-paced and dynamic soccer of the team’s young season.
The most exciting part? That may just be a taste of what’s soon to come.
The Terps now travel to Charlottesville to play in their third consecutive ranked matchup, this time facing No. 15 Virginia.
The Cavaliers secured wins over non-conference opponents Iona and George Mason, but fell, 3-1, to unranked Loyola Marymount. The Lions scored twice in the first 15 minutes of play and outshot Virginia, 17-11.
The “Battle for the DMV” will begin at 7 p.m. and be streamed on ACCNX.
Virginia Cavaliers (2-1)
2022 record: 10-4-5 (5-1-2 ACC)
George Gelnovatch is one of the most accomplished coaches in the nation, having led Virginia to a pair of national championships. Under his leadership, Virginia has secured 10 top-four national seeds and made eight NCAA quarterfinal appearances.
Players to watch
Kome Ubogu, junior forward, No. 18— Ubogu started sparingly for the Cavaliers in 2022, but was nonetheless one of their most impactful players. For the past two seasons, Ubogu has slotted just behind Leo Afonso for the team lead in points. Last year, he had an impressive six goals in just 433 total minutes played.
Leo Afonso, senior forward, No. 7 — Afonso has been one of the most daunting players in the ACC during his time at Virginia. Last season, he was named to the All-ACC first team after leading the Cavaliers in points (18) and goals (7) for the second consecutive season.
Paul Wiese, junior defender, No. 4 — The German defender has starred on the back end for the Cavaliers over the past two seasons, racking up nine assists in the process. Last season, Wiese finished third on the team in minutes played.
Raw talent. The Cavaliers boast a great deal of athleticism with a fluid mix of youth and experience on its roster. Not only did stars like Afonso return to the fold, but the newcomers have already begun making their mark. Freshman forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi scored the team’s only goal in its victory over George Mason.
Passing. Last season, the Hoos were bottom-five in the ACC in assists. In its three games so far this season, Virginia has scored just three times and ranks seventh in the ACC in assists.
Three things to watch
1. Will fatigue play a factor? It’s worth noting that the Terps are currently facing the toughest part of their schedule, especially with a matchup against No. 17 Georgetown on the horizon. Considering this, it will be intriguing to observe whether the Terps choose to adjust their starting lineup to provide some players with extra rest or if head coach Sasho Cirovski decides to incorporate more substitutions as the game unfolds. Against Wake Forest, Harris, along with fellow forward Colin Griffith and midfielder Jack McDaid provided a significant spark off the bench.
2. Can Maryland capitalize early? The Terps got off to a slow start Friday, not fully adjusting to the game’s speed until early in the second half. While the Cavaliers will almost certainly match Wake Forest’s physicality and intensity, it will be interesting to see if the Terps can start out on the front foot. After all, Virginia succumbed swiftly to Loyola Marymount after the Lions netted two quick scores.
3. Formation and tactics. In its past two games, Maryland has adjusted to a three-man back line in the second half, choosing to employ an additional midfielder in hopes of boosting the offensive output. It has worked rather well, as the increased pressure has forced opponents to remain trapped in their own end of the pitch. However, this strategy has also resulted in some occasional counter-attacks for the opposition, as the Terps are forced to leave some of their defenders on an island. Monday evening will reveal the approach Cirovski chooses for the Terps in this matter, which will be intriguing to witness.