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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Rutgers preview

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The Terps hit the road for a weekday matinee.

maryland men’s soccer Gabe Fernandez / Testudo Times

Maryland men’s soccer was seconds away from winning its third game in a row on Friday. Taking a 1-0 lead into the 90th minute, all the Terrapins had to do was close the match out.

“We were in total control of the game,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We never felt like we were in any real danger.”

However, Wisconsin scored with 53 seconds remaining to send it to overtime, and the Badgers would eventually win in the 107th minute.

“It was just one moment,” Cirovski said. “They won a ball in our half and tied it up. I still think in overtime we had chances. We played into their hands, we allowed them some set pieces, and they got the goal on a well-served ball and some hard runs in the box.”

It was a tough pill to swallow for Maryland, which had dominated for nearly all of the match. Instead of overcoming their tough start by getting above .500, the Terps now have a 2-3-2 record (1-1 Big Ten).

“It’s a really bitter feeling,” Cirovski said, “knowing that you deserve better out of this game. But we also didn’t do what we needed to do to close out this game.”

Another conference matchup is the next test for Maryland, as it will travel to New Jersey for a battle against Rutgers. In a change from the normal routine, the Terrapins will play on Wednesday following a Friday match instead of Monday.

Wednesday’s match is scheduled to kick off at noon ET and can be seen on BTN Plus. The match was originally scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET start time, but was moved up to due to impending inclement weather.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-5-1, 0-2 Big Ten)

2017 record: 4-13-1, 0-8

Head coach Dan Donigan is in his ninth season with Rutgers, and he’s taken the program through its transition from the Big East to the American to the Big Ten. Having previously coached at Saint Louis University, Donigan has led his teams to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, two of which came with the Scarlet Knights. Their last berth came in 2015, in which Donigan won Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Players to know

Junior forward Jordan Hall, No. 9. A transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast College, Hall has made his mark on Rutgers rather quickly. With four goals and an assist, he leads the team in points by six, and he’s been one of the few bright spots on the attack. In his two seasons with the Bulldogs, Hall tallied 57 goals and 24 assists.

Senior goalie Rafael Pereira, No. 1. Originally beginning his collegiate career at Marshalltown Community College, Pereira was one of the best goalies in the country last season. He ranked fourth in the nation and first in the conference with 97 total saves, and sported a .670 percentage. However, that success hasn’t carried over into 2018. Pereira’s save percentage sits at .537, which is one of the worst figures in the nation.

Strength

Scoring. The Scarlet Knights have had a tough start to their season, and they haven’t done many things right. However, they are scoring at a respectable rate thus far, as they average exactly one goal per game. It hasn’t been enough to beat most of its competition, but Rutgers at least as the potential to hang around in games.

Weakness

Shooting. That 1.00 goals-per-game figure, which ranks sixth in the conference, could be much improved if Rutgers was more accurate with its shots. A .290 shot accuracy percentage ranks 202nd out of 205 qualified teams, which will need to improve if the Scarlet Knights want to avoid another winless Big Ten season.

Three things to watch

1. How does Maryland bounce back? After suffering their worst loss of the season, the Terrapins will need to find an energy boost to bounce back and even their record. If Friday’s defeat is still at the forefront of their minds, the Terps may be hard-pressed to play to their ceiling.

2. Will Rutgers find a way to plug its holes on defense? The Scarlet Knights score enough to stay relevant, and their goals-per-game average is actually a considerable amount higher than that of Maryland (1.00 to 0.57). However, they’ve conceded 20 goals in only seven games thus far, and it’s nearly impossible to win a substantial amount of the games when the back line is consistently beaten.

3. Do both teams come out firing? Maryland and Rutgers are both enjoying a long period of rest, as they have played just once each since Sept. 15 due to postponed matches. With this much time out of live-game action, the Terps and the Scarlet Knights should be filled with excess energy.