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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Indiana College Cup preview

It’s the Final Four, and the Terps and Hoosiers are set to meet for a third time.

Maryland soccer Paul Pin vs. Denver Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

For the third time this season, Maryland men’s soccer will square off against Big Ten foe Indiana. However, the stakes are higher than they’ve been for the Terrapins since 2013. After a long season that tested everyone’s faith at many different points, Maryland has made its triumphant return to the College Cup, the pantheon of college soccer.

In the second semifinal match in Santa Barbara, California, the Terps and Hoosiers will battle it out in front of a nationwide audience, with the winner playing either Akron or Michigan State. The match will be televised on ESPNU and kickoff is scheduled for 10:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. for those fans who have made the trek).

How did they get here?

No. 11 Maryland (11-6-4, 4-4 Big Ten)

The point has been belabored to death, but the Terrapins had a ghastly start to the season. They failed to score a single goal through their first four matches, which led to an 0-2-2 record. But in that fifth match against West Virginia, Amar Sejdic’s goal took the lid off the goal, and the season was on.

In the 16 outings since, Maryland has scored a respectable 26 goals, good for 1.63 per match. And with the impressive back-line play the Terps have received this year, that amount of goal support has been more than enough.

Maryland has won seven times in its last nine tries, and since the NCAA Tournament has begun, the team has been nearly perfect. The defense has yet to concede a goal to North Carolina State, Duke and Kentucky, while the offense has scored five of their own.

No. 2 Indiana (20-2-1, 8-0-0 Big Ten)

Unlike their opponent, the Hoosiers have been remarkable from the second match of the year. The 2018 season handed Indiana a loss in its first outing against an elite Wake Forest team (which ended up as the top seed in this NCAA Tournament), and from that point on, the Hoosiers haven’t looked back. They won their next nine matches, and after a road defeat at the hands of Kentucky, they rebounded by winning the past 12. Winning that many contests is impressive enough, but Indiana isn’t just beating teams, it’s blowing them out at a record pace.

Starting with the second match of the season, the Hoosiers have outscored their opponents 46-9. Like Maryland, they have yet to concede a single goal in the NCAA Tournament, beating Connecticut, Air Force and Notre Dame by a combined 7-0.

What happened last time

Oct. 12 — Indiana 2, Maryland 1

Maryland’s record was a disappointing 4-4-3 when it traveled to Bloomington to face off against the then-No. 4 Hoosiers, who held a 10-2 record of their own. Many expected Indiana to continue rolling and Maryland to continue falling, but for 89-plus minutes, these two conference rivals played even.

Star defender Andrew Gutman put the home team on the board in the 32nd minute, but the Terrapins didn’t quit. In the 57th minute, Paul Bin delivered a game-tying strike to tie the score. It seemed as though overtime was a near-certainty in the waning moments of regulation, but with 18 seconds remaining, Gutman beat Dayne St. Clair to send the Terps home packing.

Nov. 9 — Indiana 1, Maryland 1 (Hoosiers win on PKs)

The Big Ten tournament semifinal match played out much like the first meeting between the teams had. Gutman scored the first goal of the match in the 61st minute, and Maryland fought to even the score. In the 72nd minute, Ben Di Rosa’s first career goal evened things up.

This time around, the Terrapins stood their ground and refused to be beaten by a late goal. The back line closed out the final 18 minutes of the match, and then it held strong throughout the 20 minutes of overtime that followed.

However, the then-No. 2 Hoosiers got the best of the Terps in the shootout. Indiana converted on three of its first four chances, while Maryland scored three goals in five attempts. In the bottom of the fifth round, St. Clair guessed right on Cory Thomas’ penalty kick, but the shot had enough on it to fight through contact and find the back of the net. Indiana went on to defeat Michigan in the Big Ten championship.

Three things to watch in the third meeting

1. Can Maryland stop Andrew Gutman? Sasho Cirovski considers the senior left back the best player in all of college soccer, and through the first two meetings, he has lived up to the hype. Gutman has scored all three of Indiana’s goals thus far, and the unique talent has the ability to affect the match on both sides of the pitch, something few others can do.

2. Which team concedes a goal first? It’s no surprise that scoring the first goal of a match often leads to victories, and that’s been the key to success for Maryland in the past few weeks. Through three matches each in the NCAA Tournament, neither the Terrapins nor the Hoosiers have allowed a single goal to be scored against them. And whoever fails to hold up first could be heading home a few days early.

3. Will the Terrapins change the narrative? In its first season in the Big Ten in 2014, Maryland beat Indiana 2-1, twice. The next four meetings from 2015-17 between the teams resulted in draws, and in 2018, the Hoosiers have been victorious in both meetings. There isn’t a ton of history between the teams, but nevertheless, the past four years have been unkind to Maryland.