Fresh off its highest scoring game of the season, Maryland men’s soccer will play host to No. 15 Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night at Ludwig Field.
The Terps (5-3-1) are riding high after scoring a season-high three goals against a quality club in Rutgers Wednesday night, an expression of what their offense can produce when hitting on all cylinders. But things won’t come as easily against a Cal State Fullerton squad that’s having one of its best seasons in program history.
Maryland and Cal State Fullerton have only played once in either program’s history, a 7-0 victory for the Terps at Ludwig Field back in 2005. Outside of that, neither team has much experience with the other, save for a match in 2013 against UC Irvine in which Cal State Fullerton’s current head coach George Kuntz was defeated by Sasho Cirovski and the Terps 1-0.
No. 15 Cal State Fullerton (8-1-1)
Head coach George Kuntz, a 30-year veteran of college soccer, has manned the helm at Cal State Fullerton for the past six years, leading the Titans to a 58-40-24 record during his tenure. Leading his club to the NCAA Tournament in three out of his first six seasons, Kuntz still seeks to lead a team past the NCAA quarterfinals.
Players to Know
1. Junior forward Christian Pinzon (No. 10) is the team’s offensive catalyst, leading the team with 17 points through the Titans’ first 10 games. As one of the team’s leading scorers a season ago, Pinzon has excelled at setting the table for his teammates this season as well, currently sixth in Division I in total assists with seven.
2. Redshirt senior midfielder Oscar Flores (No. 7) stars next to Pinzon at the top of the Viking formation, giving Kuntz two lethal goal scorers at his disposal on any given night. Although Flores doesn’t match his counterpart’s assist numbers, he’s matched Pinzon in goals this season with five, despite only scoring one goal in his collegiate career prior to this season. Look for Pinzon and Flores to do most of the work offensively for Cal State Fullerton Saturday night.
3. Senior goalkeeper Paul-Andre Guerin (No. 97) has been a fixture in net since his freshman season in Fullerton, making 57 starts for the Titans in his four years as Kuntz’s go-to keeper. A Big West All-Conference Second Team honoree last season and a preseason honoree this season, Guerin is one of the better keepers in the conference and is sure to make things difficult for the Terp attack.
Generating assists. Although having the sixth leading assister in the nation certainly helps, the whole Cal State Fullerton squad values sharing the ball and working towards finding the best possible look. This season, five different Titans have two or most assists, with the team total checking in at 22 for the campaign — the 10th most in the NCAA.
Earning corner kicks. While the Viking offense has showed few signs of weakness so far this season, not much of its production comes from corner kicks. Unlike the Terps, who generate the fifth most corner kicks per game, Cal State Fullerton averages just 5.33 per game, good for the 70th most per game in Division I. Maryland has played the ball fairly coming off of opposing corners thus far in 2019, but likely won’t be faced with doing so very much on Saturday.
Three Things to Watch
1. The Terps might be without Brayan Padilla for the rest of the season. After coming up limp during pregame warmups prior to their match against Rutgers, it was revealed that the sophomore forward likely tore his ACL in his left knee after the game. The team spokesperson said he would give media an update Thursday afternoon, but never did. With Will Hervé still sidelined with a lingering muscle injury and Paul Bin having torn his ACL prior to the season, Cirovski’s crop of forwards to choose from just got thinner.
2. Can Maryland’s offense build off their last performance? Despite being without one of their more creative offensive talents in Padilla, the Terp offense still managed a to have their best scoring outing of the season. With 35 combined shots over their past two games, it would appear Maryland’s attack are trending in the right direction.
3. Will the young Terps continue to come through? With injuries forcing more and more inexperienced players onto the pitch, Cirovski has managed to get quality play out his freshman game in, game out. Last match, freshman midfielder David Kovacic scored his first two career goals in Maryland’s 3-1 victory over Rutgers, joining Malcolm Johnston, Nick Richardson and Justin Harris as freshmen that have contributed significantly in their first season of action with the team.
Given the opportunities on the pitch to had in the second half of the season, the Terps will need the likes of Kovacic and Co. to continue to step up in the final eight games of the regular season.