Maryland men’s soccer is ready to play its final match of the regular season. Now on a three-match winning streak, the Terrapins have gotten hot at the best possible time.
In Tuesday’s home finale against Penn State, Maryland was able to eke out an overtime victory despite blowing a 2-0 lead earlier in the night. And thanks to a draw between Michigan and Michigan State late Tuesday night, the Terps have climbed all the way to No. 4 in the Big Ten standings. Holding a top-four spot is crucial, as each team is immediately rewarded with a home match for the quarterfinal round.
Maryland currently has 12 points in conference play, and the next team behind it is Michigan, Sunday’s opponent, which has 11.
So here’s the situation: If the Terrapins win or draw, they clinch at least the No. 4 seed and host either Michigan or Penn State. If they lose, they’ll secure the No. 5 seed, which would entail heading back to Ann Arbor on Sunday for the second week in a row.
There’s also a possibility that the Terps clinch the No. 3 seed. For that to happen, not only do they have to beat Michigan, but they need Michigan State to fall to Indiana as well. It’s certainly a possibility, and it’s shaping up to be a very interesting Sunday afternoon.
Sunday’s game is slated to begin at 4 p.m. ET and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
Michigan Wolverines (9-4-2, 3-2-2 Big Ten)
2017 record: 12-6-2 (6-1-1 Big Ten)
Head coach Chaka Daley is in his seventh year at the helm of the program. Coming to Ann Arbor after a 12-year stint with Providence, Daley took Michigan to the NCAA Tournament in his first season with the Wolverines. And after a four-year drought, Daley took them back last season, although the team was eliminated in the first round to Colgate.
Players to know
Junior forward Jack Hallahan, No. 11. As a sophomore last season, Hallahan led the squad with nine goals and seven assists, good for a 25-point campaign. His numbers have dropped off a bit in 2018, but he’s still the leader of the attack. With 19 points, Hallahan is second on the team in goals with six and first in assists with seven.
Sophomore goalkeeper Henry Mashburn, No. 18. After taking over as the starting goalkeeper to end last season, Mashburn has seen a lot of success in his first full season as a starter. His goals-against average of 0.76 ranks third in the conference and 25th in the nation, and Mashburn’s ceiling in the coming years is very high.
Offense. Michigan has done a great job this season at not only racking up a ton of shots, but also finding the back of the net. The Wolverines rank 28th in the nation with 14.47 shots per game, and that figure leads the Big Ten. And their average of 1.93 goals per game is good for T-26th in the country and second in the conference behind Indiana.
Consistency. The Wolverines looked like one of the best teams in the country to start the season, as a nine-match unbeaten streak had them in great position with an 8-1-1 record and a place at the top of the conference. However, ever since a 2-1 victory against Oakland, things have gone downhill fast. Beginning with a 1-0 loss to Indiana, Michigan has lost four of its last five matches and is limping into the Big Ten tournament, and at this rate, that’s as far as the season can go.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland close out the season on a high note? Maryland has won three matches in a row, all of which came at Ludwig Field in front of a home crowd. The Terrapins have played their best soccer in College Park, which makes Sunday’s match vitally important. A win or draw guarantees them at least one more match at home, and if they plan on making a run, that’s going to be a near-necessity.
2. Will Michigan get out of its funk? After dropping four of its past five matches, Michigan’s tournament chances have gone from a near lock to a slight possibility. However, if the Wolverines find a way to run the table, they’d receive an auto-bid to the big dance. They’re a very talented team, but they need to find a way to convert that into victories.
3. Where does Maryland stand in the committee’s eyes? Maryland isn’t receiving a single vote in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, but ranks 19th in RPI. The Terrapins’ resume is solid, accumulating two victories over ranked opponents and putting in a ton of good performances. However, some may find it hard to look past their 7-5-3 record, so picking up a few more victories will only serve to help their tournament outlook.