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Maryland men’s soccer vs. UCLA preview

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It’s the Bruins and Terps at Ludwig Field again.

maryland men’s soccer

It’s certainly true what they say: it’s impossible to win a game without scoring. But as the Maryland men’s soccer team has shown, failing to score doesn’t guarantee a loss.

The Terrapins have yet to register a goal in three games so far this season, and the scoreless streak dates back to the end of 2017. But in back-to-back games, they’ve been able to draw top-10 opponents. The results have been easy enough to digest, even if the methods taken to get them have been less than ideal.

“I was very proud of the way our team battled,” said head coach Sasho Cirovski. “In the end, I’ll take the result. I thought that maybe we had a couple of chances, we could’ve won the game.

Maryland has been able to match these programs on the scoreboard by having a back line that can be depended upon to stop opponent’s chances, and even if they falter, Dayne St. Clair is there to save the day.

“It’s team defending,” Cirovski said. “We got a very good back line, good goalkeeper, but I thought we showed great commitment in defending as a group. That’s been a strength of ours right now.”

“Defending is a whole team effort,” senior defender Chase Gasper said. “I’m very proud of the group. That shows a lot about the character of the group.”

All that needs to change is the offense’s success (or lack thereof), and whether or not the Terrapins can find some will be cleared up on Friday versus UCLA. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

UCLA Bruins (2-1)

2017 record: 7-10-1 (4-6-0 Pac-12)

Head Coach Jorge Salcedo is in his 15th season as the leader of the Bruins, guiding his teams to a 174-80-42 overall record. Under his tutelage, UCLA has made the NCAA Tournament in each year besides one.

Players to know

Junior forward Mohammed Kamara, No. 10. Kamara spent the first two years of his collegiate career at Tyler Junior College in Texas, amassing 70 goals and 150 points in just 44 games. Since arriving in Los Angeles, Kamara has registered three goals in three starts, and he’s one of the Bruins’ most dynamic players on offense.

Freshman goalkeeper Justin Garces, No. 1. After sitting on the bench for the first two games of the season (and his career), Garces took over in goal for incumbent starter Cole Martinez against San Francisco. In his first real action in net, he made three saves on nine shots, allowing just one goal. Unfortunately for Garces, he didn’t receive any goal support, making his first effort a losing one.

Strength

Defense. The season is still young, but the Bruins have impressed across the board on their side of the field. Thanks to a high level of play from the back line and both goalkeepers, UCLA has allowed just one goal on the season. Yes, that mistake did come in a loss, but that kind of defense will lead to a lot of wins going forward.

Weakness

Offensive consistency. UCLA is averaging two goals per game, which is among the better figures in the nation. But that average is heavily skewed by a 4-0 game against a subpar Coastal Carolina team. Since then, the Bruins have scored two and zero goals in their past two games and fallen out of the rankings. If that didn’t instill enough concern, the team’s shots-on-goal percentage is down as well.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland score? It may sound redundant at this point, but the Maryland men’s soccer team has yet to score a goal this season. That’s not to say that the Terrapins haven’t had any chances—in fact, they’ve had an abundance of them. But no one has stepped up thus far, and the team has been blanked for 310 minutes to kick off 2018.

2. What does Sebastian Elney do? The senior has put together an impressive resume in his three-plus years in College Park so far, but no moments have been more memorable than his performances against UCLA at Ludwig Field. In both 2015 and 2017, Elney scored game-winning goals in sudden-death overtime, walking off the Bruins in style. If Friday’s matchup is close late, all eyes will be on Elney.

3. Is ‘The Crew’ a deciding advantage? In the past two games, Maryland’s student section has brought a momentum boost to the Terps, even in the neutral-site game against Virginia. It hasn’t translated to wins just yet, but both Sasho Cirovski and the players have been vocal in their appreciation of the fans. If recent history is any indication, this game being at home could be enough to bring Maryland its first victory. The scarf promotion is also back, which will guarantee an electric atmosphere at Ludwig Field.