Still searching for its first Big Ten win this season, Maryland men’s soccer will host Rutgers Wednesday night at Ludwig Field.
The Terps were primed to go on a run following their last-second victory over No. 9 St. John’s a week ago, but saw their momentum come to halt with a draw against Wisconsin last Friday night.
“It’s hard for us to look at that game as a step back, it’s more of a pause,” senior captain Eli Crognale said of the result against Wisconsin. “We were kind of trying to feed off that St. John’s win and get a win in the Big Ten.”
Maryland (4-3-1) will be looking to sharpen up their execution in the final third going forward, but won’t be doing so against any pushover in Rutgers. The Terps lead the all-time series 11-1, but off to one of its best starts since 1996, Rutgers finally looks ready to make a statement against an opponent its struggled against historically.
“We’re in a good place,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We’re playing a Rutgers team that’s been off to their best start in the last 20 years or something, just like St. John’s. We have some good opportunities on our schedule to test us, and at the same time these are good games, good RPI games.”
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-1-2, 0-1-1 Big Ten)
How to Watch
When: October 2, 7 p.m.
Where: Ludwig Field
Head coach Jim McElderry has made quick work of the early part of Rutgers’ schedule in just his first season as head coach, turning around a struggling program after spending the past 16 seasons at Fordham.
During his tenure with Rams, McElderry led them to three NCAA tournament appearances, including one in which his club made it to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2017. The level of competition is certainly greater in the Big Ten compared to the AAC, but McElderry appears to be handling the transition in stride.
Players to Know
Freshman midfielder Jackson Temple (No. 12) has wasted no time making an impact in Piscataway, pacing the Knights in scoring through the early part of the season with four in his first nine collegiate matches. At only 5’5, 125 pounds, Temple’s skill in the final third outweighs his diminutive frame, proving to be an effective finisher early his in college career.
Sophomore midfielder Pablo Ávila (No. 10) trails only the freshman phenom in points thus far this season, checking in at second on the team with seven off of three goals and one assist. After a stint with RCD Espanyol, Ávila steps into the 10 role for Rutgers, where he’s excelled for the Scarlet Knights. Look for him and Temple to be the greatest offensive threats for the opposition Wednesday night.
Sophomore defender Thomas DeVizio (No. 2) helps anchor the Scarlet Knight back line, doing so in only his second season with the team. Named to the Big Ten All-Freshman squad for his efforts last season, DeVizio finds ways to contribute offensively as well, notching two assists last season and two already in 2019.
Goalkeeping. One of the areas where Rutgers has excelled so far this season has been its goalkeeping. Freshman keeper Oren Asher has been outstanding in net for the Scarlet Knights so far this season, ranking 21st in the country in saves with 35 already. Asher is also tied for 25th in the country in save percentage at 81.3%.
Staying disciplined. Unlike Maryland’s previous opponent in Wisconsin, the Scarlet Knights are one of the more foul-heavy teams in Division I this season. Their 10.11 fouls per game are second most in the Big Ten behind only Indiana, and rank 22nd in the country. Expect Maryland to have some added opportunities from set-pieces in this one.
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Maryland get rolling in Big Ten play? Excluding matches against Cal State Fullerton, Georgetown and Yale further down the line, all of Maryland’s upcoming games will be played against Big Ten opponents. Cirovski has made it a point of emphasis this season, though, to start off Big Ten play on a stronger note than years past.
“Every game is a tough game,” Cirovski said. “Except for one year in my six years in the Big Ten, I think we’ve got off to fairly slow starts in the conference. But I think we’re in a good place.”
2. How well-rested will Maryland be? Through the Terps’ first eight games of the season, their schedule has remained pretty consistent week-in week-out, playing a match every Monday and Friday. But this week, Maryland gets two days of added time to rest up before its match against Rutgers, coming at a crucial time given it just played two back-to-back double overtime contests.
“It is nice to get those extra days for some rest,” Crognale said. “It’s good to get any extra day we can with this crazy schedule.”
3. Can Maryland keep their win streak against Rutgers going? Maryland hasn’t lost to Rutgers since 1995, just Cirovski’s third season as head coach. Since then, the Terps have rattled off seven straight victories, winning by a combined margin of 15-4. But under a new head coach, Rutgers could start making some headway toward evening the series.