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No. 25 Maryland men’s soccer vs. Michigan State preview

The Terps have surged back into the Top-25 and look to continue trending upward with an in-conference matchup

Maryland men’s soccer vs Akron Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Riding off an unbeaten streak that’s lasted over four games now, No. 25 Maryland men’s soccer will head to East Lansing to face Michigan State this Friday night with the intention of continuing the run.

The Terps (6-3-1) have seen their share of success at DeMartin Stadium, most recently taking the Spartans down on the road 1-0 to knock them out of the Big Ten tournament last season. But Maryland still finds itself on the wrong end of the all-time series between the two clubs, as Michigan State narrowly leads with five wins and four losses over 12 matches (three ended in a draw).

“I was really disappointed with the result against Wisconsin [two weeks ago],” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “I think it’s important for us to start showing our mettle on the road.”

Michigan State Spartans (2-6-2, 2-1-0 Big Ten): 7 p.m.

Head coach Damon Rensing is in the midst of his eleventh season leading the Spartans’ program, making him the third-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten behind only Cirovski and Northwestern’s Tim Lenahan.

Rensing and the Spartans entered this year fresh off one of the best seasons in program history in which he led them to his first College Cup appearance as head coach behind a 14-5-4 record. But for Rensing’s success, his club finds themselves behind the eight-ball a bit for the rest of this season after going without a win over its first seven matches.

Players to Know

  1. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Alex Shterenberg (No. 8) has seen his role increase significantly over the course of this season due to the injury to All-American midfielder Giuseppe Barone. Shterenberg has filled in admirably, leading the team in points through eight games in his first season seeing significant time on the pitch.
  2. Senior midfielder Michael Pimlott (No. 5) has been a steady contributor to Rensing’s midfield since his freshman season, never missing a start since he joined the Spartans back in 2016. As one of the few upperclassmen to see playing time consistently for Michigan State this season, Pimlott has hardly left the pitch for Rensing, playing in more minutes than any other player on the team other than the keeper.
  3. Redshirt sophomore defender Nick Woodruff (No. 4) trails only Pimlott in minutes played this season, becoming a fixture in the Spartan backline in his first season of real action with the team. While Michigan State’s defense has struggled at times this season without former All-Big Ten honoree Patrick Nielson, Woodruff has come into his own for the team this season when its needed it most.

Strength

Earning corners. Much like the Terps, Michigan State has excelled at generating corner kicks so far this season. Although ranking third in the Big Ten, the Spartans are 24th in Division I in total corners created with 6.4 per game. Look for Michigan State to try and work through either corner of the field offensively Friday night.

Weakness

Scoring offense. Despite its adeptness at creating corners, Michigan State’s offense has struggled at creating and scoring goals in Barone’s absence. Just two players for the Spartans have scored more than once, contributing to only .80 goals per game this season, which ranks 173rd in the NCAA in that category.

Three Things to Watch

1. Can the Terps pick up a road win? Although three games over .500, the Terps still have yet to pick up a win playing away from Ludwig Field on the season. While they’ve managed a 6-1-0 record at home, being able to go on the road and come away with a result will only become more and more important as the season progresses.

“We have to start getting some success on the road,” Cirovski said. “Last year that was the one thing that we were good at even during the regular season we managed to do well on the road and then that carried over in the NCAA tournament, so certainly that’s one of our goals.”

2. Can the Maryland offense keep rolling? Despite being without three of its top attackers for most of this season, Maryland’s scoring offense has finally began to take off over their last few matches. With five goals in two matches, the Terps offense will be looking to continue offensive production into this game and each game going forward.

“Last year we saw how important it was to kinda hit your stride before the tournament,” junior forward Eric Matzelevich said. “Definitely hitting our peak now and kind of hitting that upward trajectory is definitely important, because right now it’s all about results.”

3. Maryland can elevate to as high as second in the Big Ten with a win. A slow start to Big Ten play with a loss to Northwestern and a draw with Wisconsin put the Terps toward the bottom of the Big Ten standings to begin the season. But after dispatching Rutgers last Wednesday, Maryland has the opportunity to move to 2-1-1 in Big Ten play with a win Friday night, which could put it behind only Indiana in the conference standings if Penn State and Michigan both lose.