Throw everything out the window.
After beating North Carolina State handily on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Maryland men’s soccer team (9-6-4) finds itself among the final 16 teams in the country.
As a surprising No. 11 overall seed, the Terps took care of business at home and now go back on the road to face one of the elite programs in college soccer. On Saturday night, the Terrapins will battle it out against No. 6-seed Duke, who’s coming off a grueling 1-0 win over Pacific last weekend.
Maryland has a ton of history with the Blue Devils, as the two teams used to be fierce rivals in the ACC. Although the teams haven’t faced each other since 2013—the last season before Maryland athletics joined the Big Ten—head coach Sasho Cirovski is incredibly familiar with the program.
There are sure to be fireworks in this one, and the festivities will begin at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on ACC Network Extra.
Duke Blue Devils (11-6-2, 5-3 ACC)
2017 record: 13-4-3 (4-3-1 ACC)
Head coach John Kerr is in the midst of his 11th season at Duke, having previously been at Harvard for nine years. Under his leadership, Kerr’s teams have made the NCAA Tournament eight times in the last 13 seasons. And although he’s seen success as a coach, Kerr’s legacy as a player will always take precedence. He was named the National Player of the 1986 after leading Duke to its first national championship victory, and he went on to play for the U.S. National Team while becoming the first American soccer player to see action in the English Premier League.
Players to know
Junior midfielder Daniele Proch, No. 9. After a relatively quiet season in which he tallied five goals and two assists, Proch has burst onto the scene in his third year with the Blue Devils. In his junior campaign, he leads the team with 11 goals and 26 points, which rank third and fourth in the conference, respectively. Those figures also place Proch among the top 30 players in the nation.
Sophomore goalkeeper Will Pulisic, No. 1. Cousin of U.S. National Team striker Christian Pulisic, the sophomore has been the Blue Devils’ starting goalkeeper since arriving in Durham. He shined as a freshman, posting a 1.01 goals-against average with a .761 save percentage and seven shutouts, all of which were among the best in the ACC. Pulisic has taken a slight step back this season, ranking sixth in the conference with a 1.137 goals-against average, a .703 save percentage and six clean sheets.
Scoring. Led by Proch and complemented by Issa Rayyan and Co., the Blue Devils’ attack has been the main catalyst for the team’s success in 2018. Duke has scored 33 goals this season, good for an average of 1.737 goals per game. That mark places the team fourth in the ACC out of 12 teams, and it ranks T-33rd in the country out of 205 teams.
Discipline. Like many of Maryland’s previous opponents, Duke likes to play aggressively. And while there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that—in fact, when executed properly, it could be a huge plus—the Blue Devils average 12.10 fouls per game, fourth in the conference. The lack of clean play also extends to the offensive side of the field, as Duke leads the ACC with 57 offside calls on the season.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland’s defense hold strong again? Sunday’s performance against NC State was perhaps the best of the season, as the Terrapins held the Wolfpack to a single shot for the entire day. Against a stout opponent such as Duke, that is extremely unlikely to happen again, but the Terps have posted eight shutouts this season. If the back line can play to its potential once again, Maryland could walk out of Durham with another tournament victory.
2. Does Duke’s attack get back on track? After having an offensive explosion to begin the season, the Blue Devils have hit a wall on offense over the past five games. Following a three-goal performance on Oct. 19 against last-place Pitt, Duke has scored just four goals in its last five matches. Some of that could be attributed to an increased level of competition as postseason play gets underway, but either way, that offensive output will not suffice going forward.
3. Will Maryland score enough? Entering the NCAA Tournament, the Terps had scored just three goals in their last three outings. A two-goal outing against NC State was a welcome sight, but a similar performance isn’t guaranteed as the postseason continues to roll on. It’s been an incredibly inconsistent year for the attack, and only time will tell whether another multi-goal scoring output is in the cards.