After reaching the pinnacle of college soccer in last season, Maryland men’s soccer looks to continue its run of excellence under head coach Sasho Cirovski into 2019.
Despite having lost several pieces from their championship run and not having any players named to the preseason All-American list, the Terps still sit atop the preseason top 25 entering this season. With playing opportunities to be had across the roster and a schedule that’s anything but a cakewalk, the 2019 Terps figure to be an interesting squad.
Here’s how they shape up:
Key players lost
Topping the list of Terps whose presence will be sorely missed this season are Dayne St. Clair, Amar Sejdič and Donovan Pines. St. Clair developed into one of the top keepers in the country last season, finishing 12th in save percentage (.833) and 3rd in shutouts (13) while logging more minutes in between the sticks (2,194) than any other goalie in the nation.
Sejdič led the team in goals last season, landing himself on the All-Big Ten first team after finding the back of the net on eight occasions, including the goal that ended up being the game-winner in the national title game.
Amar Sejdic converts from the penalty spot and Maryland takes a 1-0 lead in the #CollegeCup final! pic.twitter.com/sRMCcjdJWc— Last Word on Soccer (@LastWordSC) December 10, 2018
Three of Sejdič’s scores came during the College Cup, earning him the Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the tournament and a spot with the Montreal Impact of the MLS.
Pines opted to forgo his senior season with the team, going pro after three seasons. He helped anchor Cirovski’s defense throughout the season and into the postseason, culminating in a 500 minute scoreless streak to end the season. Pines earned spots on the 2018 College Cup All-Tournament team and the 2018 All-Big Ten First Team, ultimately leading to him signing a homegrown contract with D.C. United.
Other key departures from last season include Sebastian Elney, who scored four goals and notched two assists and now plays for the New York Red Bulls; Andrew Samuels, whose strong play at defensive midfield landed him with the RGVFC Toros; and Chase Gasper, who totaled five assists last season and now suits up for Minnesota United FC.
Another loss for the 2019 season is junior forward Paul Bin. Bin, although opting to stay in College Park for his senior season, tore his ACL on August 14th, knocking him out the team’s on-field plans for 2019. He’ll be able to take a medical redshirt for this season and return in 2020, but with several voids to be filled already throughout the roster to begin with, losing Bin certainly makes Cirovski’s job a bit tougher.
While many of the players listed above played a significant role in the team’s championship run, the underclassman contributors now find themselves in line for much larger roles going forward. Returning from the stellar defensive unit to close out last season is junior defender Johannes Bergmann, who played in every minute of the team’s scoreless streak and led the team in total minutes logged last season. Along with Bergmann on Cirovski’s back line are Matt and Ben Di Rosa. The pair each made 12 starts at defense last season, eventually becoming cogs defensively down the stretch of the season.
Figuring to be important pieces offensively are Eli Crognale, William James Herve and Eric Matzelevich. Crognale was a fixture on the midfield line, appearing in 22 matches last season while playing 70 or more minutes in 21 of those matches. Herve and Matzelevich tallied nine and seven points, respectively, in roughly 1000 minutes in 2018, but will both be in line for much more playing time next season.
As for who will be tasked with replacing St. Clair, the most likely candidate is junior Alejandro Chacon. While St. Clair never missed a minute last season, Chacon served as the team’s top backup keeper. But having sat behind St. Clair the previous two seasons, Chacon has scarce in-game experience.
The Terps have 14 freshman listed on their 2019 roster, five more than they carried last season. Among the newcomers to the program are defender Marques Antoine, midfielder David Kovacic, goalkeeper Niklas Neumann, midfielder Justin Harris, defender Kenny Hiro, midfielder Jacob Chakroun and defender Isaac Ngobu. Harris, a native of Clarksville, Maryland, was an all-American and Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer Player of the Year at River Hill High School, while Ngobu led Eastern Tech High School to a Class 2A state championship as a junior and was a Baltimore Sun First Team All-Metro selection in 2018.
Three of the team’s 14 freshman redshirted the season before and will debut along with the rest of freshman class. Goalkeepers Craig Eichelberger and Russell Shealy both figure to compete with Chacon for the starting spot in net, while defender Nick Richardson joins the fold following a prolific high school and club soccer career in which he was named Gatorade Player of the Year and was an all-state selection three times.
Forward Luke Brown also joins the squad as a grad transfer. Brown spent the previous three years at Hofstra, where he scored 19 goals and was twice named to the All-Colonial Athletic Association third team. Now in his final year of collegiate eligibility, Brown offers a much-needed threat to score for a team that lost its three top scorers from last season.
Maryland begins the the 2019 slate with a home match against USF on Thursday, followed by a neutral-site bout with No. 12 Virginia at Audi Field on Sept. 2. A rematch of the 2018 College Cup final between Maryland and No. 3 Akron will be played on Sept. 13 in College Park.
The Terps began last season winless through their first four games, playing ranked opponents in three of those matchups. With the early part of this season looking just as daunting, this far younger and less experienced Maryland team could struggle once again out of the gate.
Maryland’s conference schedule begins Sept. 20, with the Terps’ greatest competition for the top spot likely being No. 2 Indiana (Oct. 18), No. 7 Michigan State (Oct. 11), and Michigan (Nov. 3). They finished last season with just a 4-4 record in Big Ten play, but now enter this season as the top team in the nation and as one of the favorites to capture the conference crown.