Maryland men’s soccer aims to improve to 2-0 on the season with its next stop on its title defense taking the team to back to Audi Field to face Virginia Monday night.
The Terps and Cavaliers met last season at Audi Field, where the teams tied 0-0 after 100 minutes of play. With two different but talented squads facing off this time around, it’s anyone’s game this season.
This Labor Day meeting will be the first of seven matches for Maryland against (currently) ranked teams, as the Cavaliers checking in at No. 12 in the nation entering the match. Following a win just four days prior when senior Eli Crognale made the game-winning assist in his debut as one the club’s captains, the Terps look to maintain their grip at the top of the Division I.
Virginia Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
2018 record: 10-4-3, (3-2-2 ACC)
Head coach George Gelnovatch is in his 24th straight year at the helm of the program, amassing a 318-129-57 career record over that span. Sitting as the seventh winningest active coach in Division I history, Gelnovatch is set to climb even higher up the list this season with the hopes of continuing the squad’s run of 23 consecutive double-digit win seasons and NCAA tournament appearances.
Players to know
Junior forward Nathaniel Crofts (No. 10) suits up as the presumable top forward for the Cavaliers this season following a strong performance as a sophomore. He paced the team in points with four goals and six helpers, including a game-winning goal against Furman in the NCAA tournament.
GOOOOAAALLL!! Nathaniel Crofts gives Virginia a 1-0 lead with a little over 13 minutes to play! His third of the season! pic.twitter.com/7LLLg6RvLx— Virginia Men's Soccer (@UVAMenSoccer) November 18, 2018
Crofts played over 1,400 minutes last season for Virginia and could eclipse that in 2019 if he continues his stellar play around the cage.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler (No. 1) looks to build off an impressive 2018 campaign that was cut short by injury just before the start of the College Cup. Shutler posted eight clean sheets in the 15 matches he spent between the pipes, including a seven save performance against the Terps at Audi Field last season. He’ll be working with a few fresh faces on the back line, but Shutler’s talent alone should propel him to another strong season in net.
Sophomore forward Daryl Dike (No. 13) burst on the scene for the Hoos as a freshman last season, leading the team in goals (5) despite playing in just 12 matches due to injury. His performance was good enough to land him on the 2018 All-ACC freshman team, and he’s primed to surpass his goal mark from last season if he can stay healthy.
Defense. With Shutler as their last line of the defense, Virginia’s defensive unit was in top form for nearly all of the 2018 slate. The 12 goals it allowed in its 17 matches put its goals allowed against average (GAA) mark at 0.71, good for 13th best in Division I and 2nd best in the ACC. Although the Cavaliers will be without their star freshman defender from last season in Aboubacar Keita, who went to the MLS after his freshman season, Gelnovatch should have no problem directing his team their fifth straight finish in the top 50 in GAA.
Putting shots on goal. Mostly relying on their defense to keep them in games, the Cavalier offense suffered a down year in 2018. With its scoring offense checking in at 85th in the country, the Virginia offense struggled to test opposing keepers with just 4.41 shots on goal per game, ranking 151st in the country and second worst in the ACC. The Terps allowed only two shots on goal in their match against USF and should be able to find some of that same defensive success on Monday night.
Three things to watch
- Can Crognale lead to Terps to another victory? It’s still unclear as to who will emerge as the leader of this 2019 Maryland squad, but if Thursday’s game was any indication, it’s looking like Crognale. With the stakes raised even higher for Monday night, the senior captain may need to be the driving force behind the victory once again.
- Will Will Herve suit up? The sophomore midfielder, one the few returning starters from last season, suffered a lower body injury in the early going against USF that kept him from returning to the game. Freshman Malcolm Johnston performed well in his stead, knocking in the game-winning goal in the 70th minute of play. Losing Herve for multiple games would be a loss, but it may not be as significant if Johnston continues to stay in top form.
- This will be a strong test to see how good this Maryland team really is. The Terps earned their spot at the top of Division I with their performance in 2018, but this team is a lot different from the one that rattled off five straight wins down the stretch last season to capture the College Cup crown. But if Crognale & Co. can hold their own against the Cavaliers, the Terps could maintain their spot at the top deep into the season.