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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Michigan Big Ten quarterfinal preview

The Terps open up postseason play against the Wolverines.

Andrew Samuels
Matthew Regan

Maryland men’s soccer has the chance to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for the second straight season against Michigan on Sunday.

On Saturday, No. 8 seed Michigan and No. 9 seed Rutgers faced off at Ludwig Field for the chance to play the Terps. The Wolverines bested the Scarlet Knights, 2-1, thanks to goals from Francis Atuahene and Ivo Cerda. They get less than 24 hours of rest before coming into Sunday’s 4 p.m. match in College Park, which will be televised on BTN.

The No. 1 seed Terps (15-0-2, 7-0-1 Big Ten) were taken to double overtime by both these teams during the regular season. Michigan was Maryland’s last regular season opponent and possibly its hardest test all season.

With three starters and a perhaps their most important super-sub out against the Wolverines last week, the Terps crumbled early and were down by two goals after the first 45 minutes. Second half goals from Gordon Wild and Chris Odoi-Atsem forced overtime, and Suli Dainkeh’s 109th minute strike completed the comeback.

This early deficit and late comeback has become a trend for Maryland as of late. Were it not for Jake Rozhansky’s heroics back in September, the Terps may have lost to the Scarlet Knights. A Rutgers goal in the 89th minute was crucially called back thanks to a late offside call. Ever since, Maryland has won 12 straight.

Having Amar Sejdic back will be a huge boost for the Terps in midfield. Sejdic’s absence was apparent, as he sat out against the Wolverines due to a muscle injury. However, Maryland did look better with their senior captain Alex Crognale back in defense. Per Terps head coach Sasho Cirovski, holding midfielder Cody Albrecht had his best game all season.

Perhaps the most pivotal aspect of this game will be its timing. Cirovski has cited his players’ lack of rest as one of the primary reasons for their defensive lapses in the past six games.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “Two of our better performances of the year came at home against Michigan State and away at Northwestern. Both of those days, we had five to six days of preparation.”

Francis Atuahene, a 2016 first team All-Big Ten player, will be Michigan’s lynchpin. He caused all sorts of trouble for Maryland in their regular season tie, assisting both of Michigan’s goals. The Ghanaian midfielder was Big Ten Freshman of the year in 2015, and he leads the Wolverines with seven goals and is tied for the team lead in assists.

Robbie Mertz and Jack Hallahan, coincidentally the two players who scored against Maryland, have also chipped in with four goals apiece this season. If the Terps can close these three players down, they should come away with an easy win.

Maryland should have two distinct advantages on Sunday. The best team in the country will come up against a tired Michigan team on a full week’s rest, a rarity in college soccer. If Cirovski can field his regular starters and the defense can contain Atuahene from spreading the ball, Maryland will have no trouble extending their winning streak to a lucky 13.