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No. 24 Maryland men’s soccer vs Villanova preview

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The Terps will attempt to put together two straight wins for the first time this season.

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

In a game that was originally supposed to be held at Talen Energy Stadium outside Philadelphia, No. 24 Maryland men’s soccer will take on Villanova at Ludwig Field on Monday night.

The game being moved to College Park creates a short home stand for the Terps, with this being the second of four straight games that they will play on their home turf. Maryland took the first game of the home series, dispatching Akron 1-0 after dropping each of its previous two matches.

Maryland and Villanova’s history against one another is relatively brief, as the two clubs have only played four times over the years, squaring off for the first time in 1997. The Terps are undefeated against the Wildcats, most recently winning a 2-0 contest in 2015 while outscoring them 13-1 across the four games.

Villanova Wildcats (4-1, 0-0 Big East)

Head coach Tom Carlin has just barely managed to stay above .500 in his 10 years as the lead man at Villanova, guiding the Wildcats to a 89-85-20 record over that span. Carlin was responsible for leading the ‘Cats to their first NCAA tournament bid in 2016, but has failed to stay above .500 in each season since then.

Players to Know

  1. Freshman forward Lyam MacKinnon (No. 22) has been a strong addition to Carlin’s offense in just his rookie season. He had four points on a goal and two assists in his Wildcat debut while servicing two more assists and another goal over the next three matches. The 6’1 Swiss-native has been Villanova’s top offensive threat this season, accounting for 17 shots already in 2019—over 10 more than anyone else on the team.
  2. Senior defender Conor Bradley (No. 6) typically hovers in the defensive midfield for the Wildcats, ranging from a defensive stalwart to someone who is a threat to score when he picks his spots. Helping lead a senior-laden back line, Bradley figures to have a productive season on both ends of the field.
  3. Senior midfielder Evan Vare (No. 8) has yet to make much of an impact at Villanova since transferring from Lafayette — an injury ended his debut season with the Wildcats in 2018. He led Lafayette in goals in 2017, and will likely play a larger role in Carlin’s offense in 2019.

Strength

Goalkeeping. After a rocky season in which goalkeeper Carson Williams didn’t miss a minute in net after sitting the entire season prior, the junior keeper is off to strong start in 2019. He’s improved upon his .772 save percentage from last season, with a .917 mark through four games this season. The Terps offense will offer a greater challenge than Williams has faced so far in 2019, but the Texas native has looked as sharp as he’s ever been.

Weakness

Scoring offense. Last season, the Villanova offense was largely anchored by midfielders Zach Zandi and Yusuf Cueceoglu, finishing first and second in goals scored with seven and six goals, respectively. The Wildcats ended up finishing tied for 164th in Division I in scoring offense, and they could dip even further in 2019 with Zandi graduated and Cueceoglu transferring to Portland.

Three things to watch for

  1. Will the Terps be without Eli Crognale? Maryland hasn’t had any luck this season in regard to injuries, and such remained to be the case Friday night when senior team captain Eli Crognale came up gimpy late in the match. Playing a prominent role on the team on and off the field, an extended absence for Crognale could spell trouble for Maryland’s connected play at the top of the Terp formation.
  2. Can Eric Matzelevich stay hot? The added run at forward as a result of the prolonged injuries to Luke Brown and Will Hervé is already paying dividends for Eric Matzelevich, scoring in each of the last two games to match his 2018 goal total in just four matches. The junior is off to strong start to the 2019 campaign, and will continue to see his role grow if his finishing remains sharp.
  3. Can Maryland stay undefeated at home? The Terps have jumped out to an early 2-0 start when playing at Ludwig Field, a strong improvement after going winless through their first three matches at home last season. Maryland has four ranked matches at home still ahead, making its ability to perform at Ludwig even more crucial. If the team can maintain its strong play at home, it could go a long way toward solidifying postseason resumé.