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Maryland men’s soccer looks to increase offensive efficiency after recent cold stretch

The Terps have just one goal in their last 44 shots.

maryland men’s soccer amar sejdic Gabe Fernandez | Testudo Times

Maryland men’s soccer recorded two dozen shots Tuesday night against in-state rival UMBC, but came away with only one goal in its second consecutive draw on the road. Between Friday night’s efforts against No. 6 Michigan State and four days later against the Retrievers, the Terps have combined for one goal in their last 44 shots.

“Our attackers have got to execute with more precision,” head coach Sasho Cirvoski said after a 1-1 tie with UMBC. “Right now we’re leaving way too many chances unfulfilled in the final third.”

Midfielder Eryk Williamson hit the post in the sixth minute against the Spartans Friday night, while forward Gordon Wild’s header off a rebound forced a seated, one-handed save from Spartans goalkeeper Jimmy Hague. Both Wild and freshman Ben Di Rosa hit the crossbar against UMBC—two of 24 total shots. The chances have been there for the third-ranked Terps, but unlike last season, finishing those opportunities have been noticeably less frequent.

In 2016, the Terps’ 2.5 goals per game ranked second in the country. The number has fallen to 1.8 in their first nine games this season, good for 36th in the nation The most telling stat of the recent offensive struggles is shots per goal. Last season, Maryland scored every 5.5 shots; this year, that number is up to 8.8.

Maryland ranks fifth in shots, but 12th in goals compared to the rest of the United Soccer Coaches’ top 25. Both Indiana and Michigan State score more efficiently than the Terps, despite Maryland having more shots than the Hoosiers and more goals than the Spartans. North Carolina’s 5.1 shots per goal is the best among the group.

“One of these days we’re going to start connecting on [our chances],” senior defender George Campbell said Tuesday. “It’s not the end of the world. We’re going to start figuring it out and start scoring some goals.”

Campbell utilized the right wing frequently to send dangerous crosses into the box against UMBC, leading to several chances in front of the net. While Maryland returned nearly all of its offensive weapons from last season, it was defender Donovan Pines who stepped up to provide an offensive spark against the Retrievers.

Pines’ 55th-minute goal was the first of his career, but the Retrievers quickly evened the score minutes later to force a draw. It was the first goal scored on the Terps in 567 minutes. While Maryland’s offense is trying to find a rhythm, the defense has been consistently dominant.

The Terps have played three ranked teams in their first nine games, but still allow minimal shots and goals. Among ranked teams, Maryland is seventh in shots allowed and tied for sixth in goals allowed. The Terps concede a goal, on average, every 13 shots by their opponent.

Maryland has allowed just five goals this season in 64 shots, aided by six shutouts from the backline and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair. The Terps’ recent streak of five straight shutouts tied a program record before UMBC snapped it Tuesday night.

Other Big Ten teams have also showcased stout defenses, as well. Indiana has allowed just two goals in 77 shots, while Michigan State has conceded just one goal in 82 shots. The Spartans boast the one of the best defenses, but they only have nine goals, though, which is the second-lowest among top-25 teams.

Statistically, Maryland’s defense is one of the best in the country, but the Terps will need the offense to start scoring at a higher clip. The team recognizes the scoring needs to improve, but also knows the chances are there, too.

It’s difficult for teams to have long-term success with a great defense but a poor offense and vice versa. Championship contenders typically feature a balance between the two.

Maryland records the fifth-most shots per game and the fourth-fewest shots allowed per game among the top 25, showing the disparity between its chances and its opponents’ opportunities. The Terps average more than double the amount of shots than their opponents. The only game this season they’ve been outshot was against then-No. 4 Indiana in a 0-0 draw.

While the Terps have struggled to finish their chances, Cirvoski believes the trend will change after a current stretch of road matches.

“We’re going through a tough spell right now as far as three away games, big crowds [and] big efforts from the opposition,” he said.

Michigan State and UMBC both set new attendance records when Maryland came to play this past week. The Terps have three more road games in their next four matches, but end the regular season with four straight games at home.

Pines, who has helped lead a defense that has preserved three ties this season, remains optimistic that the offense with break through soon. Even though a lack of goal support has put more pressure on the backline recently, the opportunities for the offense are there to be finished.

“We have complete confidence in our strikers. They just need to produce and do the best that they can up top and hopefully that will come,” Pines said. “They just have to keep going forward, keep staying positive and keep combining up top so we can get these goals in the games to come.”