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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Stanford preview

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The Terps’ home opener comes against the three-time defending national champions.

NCAA Soccer: College Cup-Stanford vs Akron James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland men’s soccer’s offense is, in a word, struggling. The disappointing finish to the 2017 season saw the Terrapins score just two goals in their final six games, and in being shut out by No. 24 (now No. 3!) Washington last Friday night, the new season hasn’t seen a change just yet. For a program as accomplished as Maryland’s is, this trend has to be concerning. And with Stanford coming into College Park, the problems will need to be figured out quickly.

If history is any indication, the Terps may be in store for a surprise performance against the three-time defending national champions. Under Sasho Cirovski, Maryland has never started a season 0-2. In fact, the last time a season started that way was all the way back in 1992. A streak like that is great to talk about, but it won’t help the Terrapins succeed unless they can do the one thing that has eluded them since the end of 2017.

“We have to score,” said Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski. “We really need to get a goal here. I’m confident that we can improve our defending and make it difficult for teams to score but right now we need a couple of players to step up [on offense].

Washington’s defense proved to be adept at limiting the opposing attack, but the Terrapins made big strides in the second half. All of Maryland’s shots on goal came after the break, and they were a few bounces away from possibly tying the score.

“Last week we weren’t happy with the result, but I think there was a lot to take from the game,” midfielder Amar Sejdic said. “In the second half, we showed some great resiliency and we really competed to get those two goals back.”

So despite the shutout, things may be looking up for the attack.

No. 10 Stanford Cardinal (0-0-1)

2017 record: 19-2-2 (9-0-1 Pac-12)

Head coach (or “The Knowles Family Director of Men’s Soccer” Jeremy Gunn is in his seventh season at Stanford, and he has built one of the greatest dynasties in the history of college soccer. His overall winning percentage on the farm is .732, but the 2015-17 seasons are in another category entirely. The team boasted a 52-7-10 record, winning three straight national championships. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the latest two titles came without allowing a single goal in tournament play.

Players to know

Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Andrew Thomas, No. 30. From London by way of Russia, Thomas has huge shoes to fill for Stanford in its 2018 campaign. He’ll be taking the place of Nico Corti, whose final season was one of the best in program history. Despite redshirting last season, Thomas was given the keys to the castle and will be tasked with keeping Stanford’s opponents off the scoreboard. He did just that in his debut against San Jose State, posting a shutout in 110 minutes while making two saves.

Sophomore midfielder/defender Logan Panchot, No. 22. As with its goaltender, the Cardinal suffered a number of losses in both the attack and midfield. The most notable change is the lack of Foster Langsdorf, who is in the top 10 in both goals and points in Stanford soccer history. That leaves a ton of opportunity available for new starters, including Panchot. As a freshman, he scored two goals and totaled five points. And in the 2018 season opener against the Spartans, he had three shots, one of which was on goal.

Senior forward/midfielder Amir Bashti, No. 11. Fortunately for Stanford, not all of its prior production is lost. Bashti is back for his senior season, and he hopes to build on a successful 2017 season. As a junior, he had six goals and 14 points, which tied him for second and fifth on the team, respectively. Against San Jose State, Bashti had two shots.

Strength

Defense. The Cardinal are on an incredible run defensively dating back to last season. It ended the 2017 season on a 15-game shutout streak which was vitally important in winning a third title in a row. Despite losing starters on the back line in addition to goalie Nico Corti, Stanford was able to shut out San Jose State in the 2018 season opener.

Weakness

Experience. Gunn and his assistants needed to replace seven starters from a year ago, all of whom played integral roles in winning three straight championships. In total, 71 percent of the scoring is gone and so is the starting goalkeeper. As a result, four freshmen started in the season opener, and more newcomers will play impactful roles.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland score? By now, the soccer world knows all about Maryland’s scoring issues, and Stanford’s shutout streak is even more prominent across the country. Not only do the Terrapins have a long way to go before resembling the teams of old, but Friday’s test will be among the hardest they’ve faced in recent history. If the Terps have any advantage, it’s that the Cardinal are young and inexperienced on the defensive side of the field. But then again, so is Maryland on offense.

2. Can the defense support Dayne St. Clair? Maryland’s junior goalkeeper had six saves against Washington, but allowed two goals. However, neither of those came by way of a St. Clair error; they occurred due to lapses on the defensive end. If the unit’s performance continues that way against Stanford, the Terrapins are in big trouble—the Cardinal are 60-0-6 when scoring two goals under Gunn.

3. How big of an advantage is having the home field? Games at Ludwig Field bring a rowdy environment, and that is only strengthened in a home opener. “We call it ‘Friday Night Lights’ here at Maryland when the students are all back,” Cirovski said. “It’s always a special night ... the best night in college soccer.” Against a team like Stanford, the Terrapins are going to need all the support they can get. The Crew is one of the biggest fan groups in the sport, and it’ll be in full force in arguably the biggest game of the year.