Maryland men’s soccer has a storied past that most other programs would gush over. The Terrapins have the sixth-most national championships in the history of the sport, and they are one of just five teams to have multiple titles since the turn of the century. 2018 marks the ten-year anniversary of the 2008 team that went 23-3, which is one of the more impressive seasons in recent soccer history. Including 2008, Maryland has won seven conference tournaments in the past ten years, showing it can succeed in both the ACC and the Big Ten.
The Terrapins had a chance to take home a fourth championship in 2013, but they would lose to Notre Dame in the final game of the season. Since then, Maryland has struggled on the national stage. Despite three Big Ten tournament titles in four years, the team has just two NCAA Tournament wins. In 2016 and 2017, they failed to win a single contest. Both of those teams were in the top five at some point in the season, but they failed to live up to the ranking.
In 2018, expectations are lower than they have been in a long time. For the first time since 2001, Maryland will open the season unranked. The Terrapins garnered more respect in the conference preseason poll, as they were projected to finish third among Big Ten teams, placing them ahead of No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 21 Michigan. But it’s the first time since joining the conference that Maryland hasn’t been picked to win it outright, putting it in unfamiliar territory.
There’s a good reason for the lowered expectations.
This team is losing a huge chunk of production from last season. Jake Rozhansky, Eryk Williamson, and Gordon Wild are all gone on the attack side. They are currently playing in the Israeli Premier League, Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League, respectively. The trio had a combined 46 points; Maryland only had 84 as a team. These three also scored 15 of the Terrapins’ 29 total goals, meaning that over half of the team’s offensive production is simply gone.
Sebastian Elney (12 points) is the lone starting forward who remains, and he’ll recognize Andrew Samuels and Amar Sejdic (10 points) in the midfield. It’s clear that the trio will step into larger roles this season, but they’ll have a lot of talent joining them in the starting 11.
Sophomore Eric Matzelevich will slide into the second forward spot, hoping to fill the void left by Wild. As a freshman last season, he had five points across 18 games played. A top recruit coming into the program, Matzelevich could be an x-factor for the Terps. If the preseason scrimmages are any indication, joining Matzelevich in the lineup will be juniors Paul Bin and Eli Crognale as well as senior DJ Reeves. So despite the losses, the team still has a ton of experience still on the roster.
On the defensive side, not much will change. George Campbell graduated to the USL, but the rest of the unit remains intact. And most importantly, star goaltender Dayne St. Clair is back in hopes of stifling opposing offenses. In 19 games played last season, the redshirt junior allowed just 20 goals and had a save percentage of .740, which was well-above average among Division I goalies last season.
Head coach Sasho Cirovski also brought in nine newcomers, who combine to make up a top-15 recruiting class in the nation, according to Top Drawer Soccer. There is a ton of diversity among the group, as players from three different countries and four states will be coming to College Park. Included in this group is Bryan Padilla, the No. 58 recruit in the country. In addition to playing for FC Dallas Academy, Padilla was called up to play for the USA U-17 National Team.
The schedule is as challenging as ever.
The newcomers and the rest of the team will be featured prominently across the country this season, as the Terps will have a minimum of 11 games played on national television. Maryland will also face 10 NCAA Tournament teams from last fall. This includes Stanford, which has won the past three national championships.
The 2018 season is going to be a challenge for Maryland. In losing over half of its offensive production, scoring won’t be guaranteed. Mix in a grueling schedule, and this season could be one of the more difficult in the past decade. But the Terrapins have the pedigree to overcome the odds, and only time will tell whether this group can exceed expectations.