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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Michigan State preview: Terps face biggest road test this season

Brace yourself for another defensive match.

maryland men's soccer Gabe Fernandez | Testudo Times

Following a fourth straight clean sheet, the No. 3 Maryland men’s soccer team will look to continue its 397-minute shutout streak on the road Friday against No. 6 Michigan State.

The Terps have five shutouts in their first seven games, but the Spartans already have six, allowing just one goal this season. Because of the defensive success for both teams, Maryland’s Johannes Bergmann recently earned Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors with the Michigan State’s Jimmy Fiscus.

The Terps played to a 0-0 draw the last time they traveled to East Lansing two years ago. Maryland only had two shots on goal in that match. Last year, Maryland beat No. 22 Michigan State at Ludwig Field, 2-0, on a Jake Rozhansky goal and a Spartans own goal. Maryland advanced to the Big Ten Championship last season after beating Michigan State, 2-1, on goals from Gordon Wild and Amar Sejdic.

While the Terps are coming off two relatively easy wins against Rutgers and Penn State, the Spartans just won back-to-back matches against ranked opponents, including an overtime victory last time out against Michigan.

Maryland and Michigan State currently sit at second and third in the Big Ten standings, respectively, behind Ohio State.

The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. ET and can be streamed on BTN+ here.

No. 6 Michigan State Spartans (7-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

2016 record: 13-5-2, 0-3-1 B1G

Head coach Damon Rensing. After spending 10 years as an assistant, Rensing became the head coach of the Spartans in 2009. He’s led his alma mater to six NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons. Rensing’s won just one Big Ten title in his eight years as head coach, a 2-1 overtime victory against Michigan in 2012.

Players to watch

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague, No. 1. The two-year starter made starts in all 20 games last season for the Spartans, holding opponents to less than a goal per game. After earning second team All-Big Ten honors, he’s allowed just one goal in 640 minutes this season.

Senior defender Jimmy Fiscus, No. 3. He spent last season as a junior captain, leading a stout Spartan backline. He was an All-Region and a Second Team All-Big Ten selection. He and his defense conceded no goals last weeks, helping earn him Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the week honors with Maryland’s Johannes Bergmann.


All things defense. Michigan State is one of two Division I teams in the country to allow just one goal in its first seven games, posting six shutouts to start the season. Even more impressive: the goal the Spartans allowed was on a penalty kick. They’ve started the same four defenders in all seven games this season, too, so the defense clearly has great chemistry with each other and Hague. Indiana’s great defense played in front of a true freshman goalie, but the Spartans have a veteran presence in net to match their backline.


Overpowering opponents offensively. Michigan State has yet to score more than two goals in a game this season. Six of its seven games have been decided by one goal, five being 1-0 finishes. Unlike most of the top Big Ten teams, the Spartans don’t outshoot their opponents by much. The Spartans have two more shots than their opponents this season (Maryland +53; Indiana +38; Michigan +27). This suggests Michigan State doesn’t dominate possession in the attacking third. This would benefit the Terps, who have controlled the pace of play in every game except against Indiana.

Three things to watch

  1. Can Maryland score in the first half? The Terps haven’t scored a first-half goal since forward Gordon Wild’s 26th-minute penalty kick against Cal Poly back on Sept. 4. While the opportunities are there for Maryland, the finishing has been lacking in the first 45 minutes of games. This hasn’t been too concerning, since they’ve often been able to quickly score in the second half, but it’s always good to lead at halftime on the road.
  2. The Terps didn’t lose on the road against a ranked opponent last season. Maryland won and tied its two road games against ranked opponents last season. The Terps tied No. 16 UCLA to start the season and then beat No. 22 West Virginia on an Amar Sejdic goal. The last time the Terps lost away from home against a ranked opponent was against Clemson in the 2015 NCAA Quarterfinals, where Maryland lost on penalty kicks. The Terps have one other match this season against a currently-ranked opponent, No. 25 Ohio State.
  3. A 0-0 draw wouldn’t be too surprising. It’s definitely not want you want to hear, but a scoreless tie is a realistic score prediction for the game. Maryland and Michigan State boast two of the best defenses in the country, and the Spartans are playing at home against their toughest opponent so far this season. Michigan State didn’t lose a game in East Lansing last season until the NCAA Tournament, either. Maryland might control the midfield, but the Spartans might play more defensively than normal to compensate for the fact that they only have nine goals in seven games.