When head coach Sasho Cirovski built Maryland men’s soccer’s 2018 schedule, he wanted to challenge his team and force it to grow early in the year.
The Terrapins had the fifth-strongest schedule in the country, and they got through the grueling slate with an 8-6-4 record, earning an RPI of 12. As such, the NCAA Tournament committee gave the Terps the No. 11 overall seed, which comes with a first-round bye and a home match in the second round.
Placed in their side of the bracket were North Carolina State and Campbell, who played on Thursday for the chance to knock off Maryland. The Wolfpack easily dismissed of the Camels, winning 4-1 on Thursday night in Raleigh, North Carolina, before traveling to College Park.
Sunday’s second-round matchup between Maryland and NC State will be played at 1 p.m. ET at Ludwig Field and can be streamed on BTN Plus.
NC State Wolfpack (10-6-3, 2-4-2 ACC)
2017 record: 8-6-4 (3-3-2 ACC)
Head coach George Kiefer is only in his second season with the Wolfpack, making the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years. Last time around, NC State was knocked out in the first round against Old Dominion. Before setting up in Raleigh, Kiefer spent 15 seasons as the leader at the University of South Florida, making 10 NCAA Tournaments.
Players to know
Junior midfielder Gabriel Machado, No. 15. Machado played the first two years of his career at Monroe College, a junior college in the Bronx. In 2017, he compiled an impressive 44 points in just 15 matches for the Mustangs. And after transferring to NC State, Machado has already become the leading scorer for the Wolfpack. He leads the team in goals and points, with six and 15, respectively, and in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Campbell, he scored two late goals as his team pulled away for a victory to advance.
Sophomore goalkeeper Leon Krapf, No. 1. Ever since arriving on campus, Krapf has been the starting goalkeeper for the Wolfpack. He was in goal for all 18 matches last season, posting a goals-against average of 1.06, including seven shutouts, to go along with a .683 save percentage. His numbers this season are surprisingly similar, as Krapf has recorded a 1.11 goals-against average, a .718 save percentage and seven clean sheets.
Defensive discipline. The Wolfpack possess one of the better defensive units in the ACC, allowing 1.16 goals per game to the opposition. A lot of that success has to do with the team’s discipline on that end of the field, as NC State averages just 11.16 fouls per game. That figure ranks second in the conference behind North Carolina, and it puts the Wolfpack in the top 50 in the country.
Offense. As good as its defense has been this season, NC State likely should have won more games. But the Wolfpack score just 1.316 goals per game, which ranks 11th out of 12 teams in the conference. That figure looks even worse on a national scale, as NC State’s offense ranks T-109th in the nation.
Three things to watch
1. Does the long layoff hurt Maryland? At the end of the season, the Terrapins were rolling. They won three games in a row before losing to Michigan in the regular season finale. Then in the Big Ten tournament, Maryland knocked off Michigan State and was inches away from stunning the No. 2 Hoosiers in Indiana. However, that game was last Friday, meaning it’ll be a nine-day break between matches. It’s given the team the chance to get healthy, but it remains to be seen whether it negatively affects the Terps.
2. Is NC State fatigued? It wasn’t a necessarily strenuous game, as the Wolfpack beat Campbell 4-1 on Thursday night. But that game ended late, and NC State had to then make the trip to College Park. All of this happened in the span of a couple days, and the Wolfpack will not be afforded the same luxury as Maryland in terms of recovery time.
3. Can Maryland’s offense get back on track? In a three-game winning streak in mid-October, the Terrapins scored nine goals to dominate their opponents. But in the three outings since, Maryland has scored just one goal in each. NC State has been challenged offensively this year, meaning that the Terps likely will not have to score more than two or three goals. But can they do that in the biggest game of the season?