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Maryland men’s soccer vs. VCU preview: It’s a new week for the Terps

Maryland hasn’t lost three straight since 2004.

maryland men's soccer

This time last week, it appeared the Maryland men’s soccer team had a realistic opportunity to finish the regular season undefeated for a second straight year. But with a struggling offense, and a red-card suspension and an injury on the defense, the Terps’ 30-game unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss against No. 13 Georgetown Tuesday.

Three days later, it happened again, this time to unranked Coastal Carolina.

Maryland is now in a spot it’s not accustomed to. The team hadn’t lost back-to-back games in over three years and hadn’t been held scoreless in consecutive games since 2009.

But it’s a brand-new week to regroup. The team will surely take a hit in the rankings when they’re released Tuesday afternoon, but without the pressure of an undefeated season and a top-three ranking, the Terps can turn their focus to putting the ball back in the net at a more consistent rate.

VCU, which received votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll last week, will come to College Park Tuesday night for Maryland’s third straight match at home. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. ET and will be streamed on BTN+ here.

Virginia Commonwealth (8-4, 5-1 Atlantic 10)

Head coach Dave Giffard. Giffard has led the Rams to two NCAA Tournament berths in his first seven years at head coach, but his team could be returning later this season. He and the Rams have been to consecutive Atlantic 10 championship games, but fell in both with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line.

Players to know

Freshman goalkeeper Mario Sequeira, No. 00. He’s just a freshman, but Sequeira has started in nine of VCU’s first 11 games this season. Two other goalkeepers have started a game for the Rams this season, but Sequeira is the only one with multiple starts. He’s conceded just seven goals in over 800 minutes this season and has an individual record of 7-1.

Senior midfielder Rafael Santos, No. 10. The veteran from Brazil is tied for the team lead with 12 points (five goals, two assists) this season. Three of his five goals this season have been game-winners. Santos was named a first team All-Atlantic 10 recipient last season as a junior. He played against Maryland when the teams last met back in 2014, a 1-0 Terps victory.

Strength

A scoring trio. Three players have accounted for 16 of VCU’s 23 goals this season, each scoring at least five. Santos and Fran Amorosino each have five goals, while Luc Fatton leads the Rams with six. The trio only have three of the team’s 18 assists this season, but they are the players putting the ball in the net for the Rams. Outside of these three, only one other player has more than one goal. If VCU scores Tuesday, it’s more than likely to come from the aforementioned names.

Weakness

Shots per game. VCU has the 13th-best scoring offense in the country (four spots ahead of Maryland), but ranks 76th in shots per game (63 spots behind Maryland). While the Rams score at a high rate, they don’t produce that many chances, and when they do, only 42.6 percent of their shots are on goal. For reference, Maryland, which has been scoring pretty inefficiently for parts of this season, puts 49.3 percent of its shots on target.

Three things to watch

  1. How will the Maryland offense perform? The last time the Terps were held scoreless in back-to-back games was in 2009 in a pair of 2-0 losses to George Mason and Duke. It’s not often teams outshoot the Terps, but it’s now happened twice in the last three matches. Gordon Wild hasn’t scored in over a month and didn’t even receive the start against Coastal Carolina. With the postseason looming, now is the time to find a solution. The offense only lost one midfielder after last season, and it ranked second in the country in goals. This team currently ranks 16th in that department.
  2. The Terps went on a big run the last time they lost two straight. When the Terps lost back-to-back matches in 2014 to Georgetown and Northwestern, Maryland won 11 straight. Eight of the wins finished off the regular season, while the last three helped claim Maryland’s first Big Ten Tournament title. Senior George Campbell was on that team, which outscored its opponents 25-7 during the winning streak.
  3. Maryland hasn’t lost three in a row since 2004. The Terps lost three consecutive games from Sept. 22 to Oct. 2 during the 2004 season. Even with a poor stretch in the beginning of that year, Maryland went all the way to the College Cup before falling to Indiana in the NCAA Semifinals. To avoid the same streak this season, the Terps’ offense will need to step up. Heading into the season, many thought the defense was the big question mark. Right now, it seems to be the exact opposite.