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What’s next for Maryland men’s soccer after a historic championship run

State of the Program continues with a team that made a run to a title in 2018.

NCAA Soccer: DI Men’s College Cup-Maryland vs Akron Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland sports offseason is here, and it was a wild year for Terrapin athletics. There were national championships in men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, and a trip to the title game in field hockey. Maryland athletes won some of the highest honors in their sports. But there were also some lows, both on and off the field.

This summer, we’ll be going in-depth on every Maryland varsity program, looking at where it’s been and where it’s going. Thomas kicked off the series started with football, and Justin followed that up with a women’s soccer deep dive. Today, I’m taking a look at men’s soccer, the only Maryland team to win a title in 2018. Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.

Maryland men’s soccer

Established: 1946
All-time record: 747-339-110
Championships: 1968, 2005, 2008, 2018
Last 5 years: 66-23-19, 24-9-7 Big Ten
The coach: Sasho Cirovski (26th season)
Fall 2018: 13-6-4, 4-4 Big Ten, national champions

Where it’s been

After making the NCAA Tournament for 18 straight seasons, Maryland men’s soccer has been a national powerhouse essentially since the millennium began. More recently, the Terps have been (and still are) the kings of the soccer world, not allowing a goal throughout the entire 2018 gauntlet of seeded teams in the postseason to knock off Akron in the 2018 College Cup.

It was the third title in the last 14 seasons for the Terps, who have been a new program under Cirovski’s lead. The program won its first national championship in 1968, but following that season, success was incredibly hard to come by. The Terrapins made the tournament six times in the 24 years that followed, including just one from 1977 until Cirovski took control in 1993.

Following a 3-14-1 record in the transition season, the Terrapins have gone 384-129-52, and that run has included nine conference titles (seven in the ACC, two in the Big Ten), 24 NCAA Tournament appearances in 25 years, and three championships. It’s been one of the most successful sports in College Park ever since Cirovski’s arrival, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Where it’s going

After winning a national championship, it’s impossible to “improve.” Sure, the regular-season record could be better next season, but ultimately, the goal is still to win a title. By that line of thinking, this Terrapins season will either be a carbon copy of the 2018 team, or ultimately a relative disappointment.

But there’s still reason to be excited. With five seniors and a redshirt junior leaving in the winter, this year’s Terps will have a mix of familiar faces and reserves and newcomers stepping into larger roles. Sasho Cirovski is still Sasho Cirovski, and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. This team may have lost a good chunk of its leadership, but with him at the helm, Maryland will always have a GPS guiding it towards success.

Names to know

First, let’s get to the losses. Amar Sejdic, whose penalty shot goal won Maryland the College Cup just six months ago, was the Terps’ leading scorer last season. He’s gone. Sebastian Elney and DJ Reeves are also gone from the goal-scoring group. Chase Gasper and Donovan Pines, who anchored the defense (along with defensive midfielder Andrew Samuels) and were stalwarts all season long, are both gone. In net, the ever-eccentric Dayne St. Clair, who did not allow a single goal in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, is gone as well.

But there’s still a lot of talent returning from last year. Paul Bin broke out to finish second in points with four goals and three assists, and his senior season could be even better as the main striker. William James Herve and Eric Matzelevich, who showed playmaking talent in briefer stints of playing time, will have expanded roles. Justin Gielen, Eli Crognale and Mike Heitzmann are also potential difference-makers given more time on the field.

Defensively, there are more question marks. With its two best defenders, its best defensive midfielder, and perhaps most importantly, its best goalie now off the roster, Maryland’s defense will have to scrap together a comparable unit—especially if the offense struggles as it did last season. Senior Johannes Bergmann will head up the back line, and he’ll have the Di Rosa twins (Matt and Ben) alongside him. In net, it looks like redshirt freshman Russell Shealy could get the nod, as he started the spring match in April.

There are also eight newcomers (four midfielders, four defenders), and their information can be found here.

The mission

The mission is simple: get back to the promised land. As with any team defending a championship, expectations will be high. In Maryland’s case, those expectations might be lowered due to the amount of talent that is gone. But either way, there’s a target on the Terrapins’ backs until a new champion is crowned.

It’s not going to be easy. But then again, neither was last year. Those Terps fought and clawed just to score a single goal, and that tenacity suited them well as the season wore on. Losing leaders in all three facets of the game and replacing their production might be tough, but nothing good ever came easy.