The Maryland men’s soccer team focused on improving its shooting accuracy in the attacking third following matches against Michigan State and UMBC, opponents that the Terps had scored just one goal against in 44 shots. Just 15 of those attempts were on goal, leading to back-to-back road draws versus the Retrievers and the then-ranked No. 6 Spartans.
While the Terps stayed unbeaten last Tuesday in Baltimore, tying in-state rival UMBC was a disappointment to the team. Despite the poor performance, it was an opportunity for growth.
“I think it really uplifted us. We don’t want to lose, but that one really felt like a loss,” midfielder Andrew Samuels said. “That game really motivated us to come out and make sure we get our performances done and finish our chances.”
The Terps had gone five straight matches without a first-half goal prior to Friday night, waiting until the second time out of the locker room to take a lead. While the wins were still coming along with a few draws, playing with an early lead was becoming a point of emphasis.
Maryland scored three first-half goals against Santa Clara (who’s currently 0-9) to start the season, benefited from a Hofstra own goal and converted off a Cal Poly penalty in the box back on Sept. 4. Those goals, though, were the only five scores in the first half for the Terps heading into Friday night’s game with Northwestern.
The Wildcats had allowed the most first-half goals in the Big Ten this season, a trend the Terps took advantage of less than 20 minutes into the match. Forward Sebastian Elney one-timed a rebound into the net to give the Terps a first-half lead for the first time in over three weeks. Midfielder Jake Rozhansky later extended the advantage to two before halftime, scoring his third goal of the season.
“Getting two first-half goals, it was just kind of like a statement,” midfielder Amar Sejdic said. “We weren’t [there] to mess around and we wanted to let [Northwestern] know it [was] going to be like that throughout the rest of the game.”
After scoring nine goals with nine assists during his sophomore season, Sejdic was held pointless through Maryland’s first nine games. His first of two long shots Friday night was saved out for a corner, but the second was rebounded and scored by Elney, giving Sejdic his first assist of the year. He later added his first goal of the season on a penalty kick to cap off a 3-0 Terps win.
“We were all moving off the ball a lot quicker, getting to spots and not just waiting for it,” Samuels said. “I think just us being proactive rather than reactive is the big difference.”
Thirteen of Maryland’s 17 shots against Northwestern were put on net, in large part due to the inclination to attack the ball rather than it attacking them. By the team’s interpretation, the Terps’ overwhelming intensity exhibited great “malice,” allowing just one shot on goal only after Cirovski used a season-high 11 substitutes, an entire lineup’s worth.
“I thought we were crisp with the ball and we were very quick to recover the ball once we lost it,” Cirovski said of the win. “The precision is coming and we were maybe unlucky not to get a few more [goals].”
Even though the Wildcats were a statistically poor defense, the Terps were able to continue their precision improvements on short rest Monday night on the road against Connecticut.
After a Maryland goal was called back for offsides, junior Eryk Williamson scored the team’s third first-half goal in four days to take an early lead against an opponent which had allowed just five goals prior to the match. When UConn tied the score before halftime on a penalty kick, the Terps responded with two second-half goals to take a 3-1 lead.
Even though Connecticut nearly scored twice on defensive lapses in the dying moments of the game—likely due to it being Maryland’s third game in a seven-day span—the Terps held on for a 3-2 win.
Maryland put a majority of its shots on frame for the second consecutive game, as eight of 11 shots were on net. The Terps had nine three-goal games last season and now have five this year after their last two matches both yielded three scores.
The third-ranked Terps play their last two regular-season road matches in the next two Fridays against Ohio State and Wisconsin, before playing the last four games in College Park. Maryland will look to continue to their precision and make more statements before the postseason.
“I know Ohio State and Wisconsin are two big teams we’ve rivaled with since we’ve been in the Big Ten,” Samuels said. “So hopefully we can just go to their fields and steal some points.”