After a disappointing performance last Friday night that resulted in the Terps’ first loss at Ludwig Field this season, No. 25 Maryland men’s soccer aims to cap off its four-game home stand with a win against No. 9 St. John’s Monday night.
Head coach Sasho Cirovski looks to get his team back above the .500 mark before Big Ten play gets in full swing. But with a top-10 ranked team coming to town, Cirovski and the Terps certainly will need to be at their best in this one.
Maryland currently leads the all-time series between the two clubs by a fair margin, winning seven out of the 10 matches and coming out on top in each of the last five matches against the Red Storm.
But this matchup has been relatively dormant over the last decade, as the teams haven’t played one another in almost four years.
No. 9 St. John’s Red Storm (7-0, 1-0 Big East)
Head coach David Masur currently trails Cirovski by just one victory among the active all-time winningest coaches in Division I history, collecting 415 wins to just 173 losses in his 33 seasons as head man for the Red Storm.
The legendary Masur has his squad off to its best start since 2012, but has struggled historically against Cirovski, making for an intriguing matchup with St. John’s being one of the hottest teams in Division I.
Players to know
Senior midfielder Niko Petridis (No. 19) has really come into his own in his second season with the Johnnies, leading the team in points with four goals and three assists through seven games after not registering a single point in 2018.
The UConn transfer has yet to play more than 64 minutes in a single match this season, but his ability to make the right play with the ball early on this season makes him a significant threat whenever he’s on the pitch.
Sophomore midfielder Tani Oluwaseyi (No. 14) trails Petridis in points scored so far this season, with three goals and an assist. Despite not being a starter for Masur, the 6’2 Oluwaseyi currently paces the team in shots and shots on goal with 21 and 12, respectively. Combined with Petridis, Masur has a deadly combination of midfielders at his disposal to fuel his offensive attack.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Luka Gavran (No. 12) and junior goalkeeper Jan Hoffelner (No. 31) have shared the starting keeper duties through the Storm’s first seven matches, splitting time in each match with Hoffelner taking the first half and Gavran taking the second. So far each keeper has allowed two goals piece on the season, but the 6’6 Gavran has made eleven saves compared to only four for Hoffelner.
This will be the first team that the Terps have faced this season that have used multiple keepers within a single match, so it should be interesting to see whether or not that impacts Cirovski’s game plan.
Scoring offense. St John’s enters this match red hot offensively, scoring three or more goals in both of its last two matches. Checking at 11th in the nation in scoring offense with 2.50 goals per game, the Johnnies put an emphasis on forcing teams to keep up with their high-powered attack.
Earning corner kicks. Despite scoring seemingly at will in 2019, St. John’s has done so without a lot of help from corner kicks. Drawing just over three per game, the Storm rank 160th nationally in corner kicks per game and sixth in the Big East.
Corner kicks can be considered fairly trivial by some teams with St. John’s likely falling into the category, but at the very least the Terp defense shouldn’t have to worry about defending as many corners as they’re typically accustomed to.
Three things to watch for
1. Can the Terps get Will Hervé back? Maryland expected to get their talented midfielder back for good last match, but just eight minutes into the match, Hervé appeared to re-aggravate the lower body injury that had him sidelined for the prior four matches.
In a match where Cirovski will need all the offensive production he can find, not having Hervé could severely inhibit the team’s offensive potential.
2. How much will Cirovski hold back Eli Crognale? After playing for an average of 84 minutes per match through Maryland’s first four games, the senior captain hasn’t logged more than 20 minutes in either of the team’s last two games.
Cirovski has mentioned in the past that he feels he needs to hold Crognale back from over-working himself, doing so in Maryland’s last match by holding him off the pitch until the 80th minute of play. With just two days to recover from the last match, Crognale could come off the bench once again if Cirovski feels he’s not 100 percent.
3. Can Maryland’s defense get back to top form at home? The Terps saw their longest opponent scoreless streak at home since 1999 come to a swift end last match after Northwestern’s Bardia Kimiavi scored in the fourth minute. The three goals allowed were an uncharacteristic showing for a Terp defense that had been rock solid at home prior to that match.
Monday’s match is an opportunity for Maryland to get back to what it does best and start regaining the defensive confidence it showed through its first three home matches.