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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Virginia preview

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The Terps battle the No. 7 Cavaliers in the first college soccer game at Audi Field.

Gabe Fernandez/Testudo Times

The Maryland men’s soccer team has yet to score a goal in 2018, but things are looking up for the Terps. Following a 2-0 loss at the hands of Washington, they hosted the three-time defending national champions in Stanford, and Maryland appeared to be the better team on the field. Despite the match ending in a scoreless tie, Friday’s performance was a positive result for Sasho Cirovski’s team.

“We played some good soccer,” Cirovski said. “We created some good chances. I loved the effort our guys put out there. We made blocks, ran down stuff. I think that’s the kind of grit and competitiveness I expect from our team.”

The scoring (or lack thereof) is an obvious and rightful concern, but the offense passed the eye test against the best program in the country. The Terrapins dominated the time of possession, controlling the ball for the vast majority of the game. The midfielders and forwards were aggressively attacking the net and creating scoring opportunities.

“I know the goals didn’t come and that’s a part of Maryland soccer,” said Cirovski. “That’s the next step for us, to find ways to reward ourselves for some of the good work we’re doing around the park. I think we can build on that.”

On Monday, the Terps will take on Virginia at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers (1-0-0)

2017 record: 12-4-5 (3-2-3 ACC)

Head coach George Gelnovatch is in his 23rd season with the Cavaliers, taking over for current USA Men’s Soccer head coach Bruce Arena. Gelnovatch has brought Virginia to an NCAA-record 22 tournament appearances in a row, making seven quarterfinals and winning national championships in 2009 and 2014. A two-time Coach of the Year recipient, Gelnovatch has continued to carry the prestige of the Virginia soccer program into the new generation.

Players to know

Senior defender Sergi Nus, No. 2. The highest-scoring player among those returning to the team this season, Nus is the de facto leader of the Cavaliers’ defensive. In his second year as a full-time starter last season, Nus tallied 13 points across 21 starts. The Second Team All-ACC selection played an integral role in ensuring the back line held up throughout the year.

Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Colin Shutler, No. 1. Having played just over 11 minutes in his collegiate career entering this season, Shutler is tasked with taking over for Jeff Caldwell, who was a three-year starter for the Cavaliers. He got off to a great start in his first game as a starter, completing his first shutout against New Hampshire, making two saves along the way.

Strength

Defense. One of the best defensive teams in 2017, the Cavaliers allowed a paltry 0.86 goals per game, which was good for third in the ACC and 23rd nationally. That trend continued in the team’s first game against the Wildcats, holding them to just two shots on goal on 11 total shots. If Shutler can match his predecessor's level of play, Virginia can be dangerous defensively once again.

Weakness

Shooting. Last year’s Cavaliers offense found enough holes to get a lot of looks, but they couldn’t turn those opportunities into testing opposing goaltenders. Virginia ranked 177th in the nation out of 205 qualified teams with a .378 shot-on-goal percentage, a number that will need to be improved if this year’s team wants to go far.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland score? Friday’s game against Stanford saw the Terrapins offense make great strides, but nobody could find the back of the net. The chances were there, as evidenced by the unit’s nine shots, but only two strikes had to be saved. “I think we were more dangerous,” said Sebastian Elney. “The goals are coming in. We’re waiting for them, and they’ll come soon.” It was encouraging to see players flying towards the ball and creating opportunities, but at some point the lid needs to be taken off the goal.

2. Will the defense repeat its performance? Maryland’s season opener saw goaltender Dayne St. Clair face eight shots on goal, six of which he was able to save. But against Stanford, the junior goalie only needed to make one save in 110 minutes, although that did come in the 90th minute when the game was on the line. If the back line can keep St. Clair out of harm’s way more often than not, the Terrapins will have a big advantage.

3. Does the neutral site play a factor? The Terrapins and the Cavaliers will battle in the newly-established Audi Field, home to DC United. It’s the first college soccer game in the stadium’s history. Located in Washington, D.C., it is essentially the midway point between the two schools. The crowd control will be up for grabs, and whichever team’s fans grab it could be in store for a boost.