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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Wisconsin preview

After a full week off, the Terps’ Big Ten home opener is Friday.

Gabe Fernandez/Testudo Times

After going winless its first four matches of the season, the Maryland men’s soccer team (2-2-2) has won its last two outings. An overtime win on the road against Northwestern on Friday was the Terrapins’ best performance of the season, and they were able to get three points on the road in a big conference matchup.

“I was extremely relieved to see the ball go through the goalie’s hands,” junior Eli Crognale said. “It was a tough game. To get the win was absolutely huge.”

It wasn’t just the victory that instilled confidence in this team’s ability going forward—it was how they won. The Terps were down 1-0 late in the game, but managed to tie it up in the 84th minute before eventually winning in the 95th.

“We could have folded,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said, “but we didn’t. This was more impressive because it was down a goal, on the road, against a much-improved Northwestern team. We’re trending in the right direction.”

The Terps were eager to carry their momentum into a home game against William & Mary on Monday, but the game was canceled due to inclement weather.

On Friday, Big Ten foe Wisconsin will come to College Park hoping to get its season back on track. Originally ranked as the No. 12 team in the nation by preseason polls, the Badgers have fallen off course drastically. They are winless in four of their past five contests and dropped their first conference game of the season to Indiana.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

Wisconsin Badgers (2-4-1)

2017 record: 10-5-4 (5-1-2 Big Ten)

Head coach John Trask is in his ninth season at Wisconsin, having previously coached in both MLS and at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since arriving in Madison, Trask has built Wisconsin into the Big Ten contender it is now. After breaking an 18-year postseason drought in 2013, his Badgers won their first-ever Big Ten tournament title last season.

Players to know

Freshman forward Andrew Akindele, No. 8. One of 10 freshman on the roster this season, Akindele has already established himself as a staple on the Badgers’ attack. In five starts and seven games, Akindele has registered a goal and an assist, tying the team lead in points (yes, really). He has a long-standing relationship with Trask, having worked directly with the coach since he was 5 years old.

Junior goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy, No. 30. In his first year as Wisconsin’s starter, Cowdroy has had an up-and-down start to his season. A transfer from Lander University in South Carolina, he has already posted three shutouts thus far. However, his save percentage of .710 and goals-against average of 1.22 are nothing to write home about, as both rank sixth in the conference out of eight qualified goalies.

Strength

Defensive discipline. If there’s one thing Wisconsin does well, it’s avoiding fouls. As a unit, the Badgers average 10.86 fouls per game. That figure ranks T-44th nationally, and it stands second in the Big Ten, trailing only Indiana.

Weakness

Offense. The Badgers have just five goals so far this season, which is an alarming total as is. They’ve been shut out three times and have only one multi-goal game. The team’s passing is even worse, as its assist total sits at just three on the year.

Three things to watch

1. Do the teams continue their season trends? Wisconsin was projected to be a perennially ranked team this season, as evidenced by its No. 12 spot in the preseason polls. But the Badgers are on the decline and looking for a spark to jump-start the season. On the other hand, Maryland has rebounded and is on the rise as conference play gets underway. If the teams continue on their current trajectories, Maryland will win at home.

2. How rested is Maryland? For most of the season, Maryland has dealt with a packed schedule. There were a number of Friday games followed by matches on Monday, and because of a scheduling shift due to weather, the Terps had to play on one day’s rest against West Virginia. After cancelling their game against William & Mary, they should be fully energized and ready to go against the Badgers.

3. Will Ludwig Field play a factor? Maryland home games usually make for a crazy environment with packed stands filled with loud fans. Friday is the team’s annual Pride Night, which is sure to draw a huge crowd. “The LGTBQ night is very important for myself and our program,” Cirovski said. “We’re really glad to be part of this event and we hope more teams follow.”