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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Northwestern preview

The Terps open conference play on the road.

Gabe Fernandez / Testudo Times

Yes, the rumors are true—Maryland men’s soccer (1-2-2) has scored its first goal of the season. On Monday against West Virginia, Amar Sejdic became the hero the Terrapins so desperately needed. His 77th-minute goal gave his team its first win of the season, and now the season can get back on track.

That momentous victory came at the perfect time for the Terps, as their conference play is ready to begin. For the first time since the season opener against Washington, they will play a true road game. This time around, Maryland will travel to Evanston, Illinois, for a Big Ten matchup with the Northwestern Wildcats.

Friday’s game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET and can be seen on BTN Plus.

Northwestern Wildcats (4-1-1)

2017 record: 7-12 (1-7 Big Ten)

Head coach Tim Lenehan is in his 18th season in Evanston, having previously coached at Richard Stockton College and Lafayette College before coming to a power conference in the Big Ten. He’s taken the Wildcats to nine NCAA Tournament appearances so far in his career, the most recent of which was in 2014 when they lost in the first round.

Players to know

Sophomore goalkeeper Miha Miskovic, No. 1. Tied for the Division I lead in shutouts, Miskovic has posted five clean sheets in six games. He has given up three goals this season, all of which came in an overtime loss to Fordham. Still, his .842 save percentage ranks 30th in the nation, making him one of the best goalies in the country so far.

Senior midfielder Camden Buescher, No. 6. A four-year starter for the Wildcats, Buescher is enjoying his best season to date so far in 2018. Leading the team in points with five, he has shown an incredible level of efficiency. Buescher has taken just four shots, two of which were on goal, and he’s scored twice, which ties the team-high.

Strength

Defense/goalkeeping. In all but one game this season, Northwestern has managed to blank its opponent. Miskovic has gotten off to a blistering start, but the back line has more than done its part to help the team win. Part of the reason for the unit’s success is aggressiveness—the Wildcats average 13.83 fouls per game, which is in the top third in the nation.

Weakness

Creating offense. Northwestern’s offensive production in terms of scoring is pretty average. The Wildcats rank fourth in the conference with 1.33 goals per game, a fine number given the success of their defense. But the offense’s ability to get shots off has been extremely limited so far this season, as the team averages a paltry 7.67 shots per game, which ranks 192nd out of 205 Division I teams. The efficiency has been off the charts, but when facing a tough defense, you often need a high quantity of opportunities.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland carry the momentum into Illinois? After being held scoreless for 476 minutes to begin the 2018 season, the Terrapins finally scored a goal. Now the pressure is off, and generating offense should be less stressful. Still, they’ll have to prove that they are capable of putting more balls into the back of the net.

2. Will Northwestern’s defense remain stout? After falling to Fordham in overtime, the Wildcats haven’t allowed a goal in 188 minutes. The back line and goalie have been nearly perfect to start the year, and that can be worrisome for a Terps team that has mightily struggled to score.

3. Can Dayne St. Clair keep it up? Despite what the 1-0 final score might suggest, St. Clair had a heavy workload against West Virginia on Monday. The redshirt junior was forced to make six saves to keep the Mountaineers off the scoreboard, and he got the job done. If Maryland’s offense struggles to score, he’ll have to do his part to keep the game scoreless.