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Maryland men’s soccer vs UCLA preview

The Terps are off to Los Angeles for a matchup with a familiar foe.

maryland soccer virginia Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Maryland men’s soccer looks to rebound from its first loss of the 2019 campaign as it travels to the West Coast to face UCLA Friday.

The history between the two clubs dates back to 2001, when then-8th year head coach Sasho Cirovski led his squad to a 2-1 victory over the Bruins. Having met 11 times since that first contest and each year since 2015, the matchup has grown into a budding rivalry between two of the premier programs in Division I.

Maryland narrowly leads the all-time series against UCLA, winning six matches against the Bruins in a series that’s become much more back-and-forth as of late. Last September saw the Terps fall 1-0 to UCLA at Ludwig Field, one of just three home losses the team suffered all season.

UCLA Bruins (1-1-0, 0-0-0 Pac-12)

2018 record: 10-9-0 (5-5-0 Pac-12)

Head coach Ryan Jorden enters just his first season as UCLA’s man in charge after a conspiracy to commit racketeering indictment forced its previous head coach, Jorge Salcedo, to resign. Jorden comes from the University of the Pacific, where he led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament in each of the last three seasons.

Players to know

Junior forward Milan Iloski (No. 10) leads a UCLA roster that lost both of it’s top two leading point scorers from last season in Matt Hundley and Mohammed Kamara. Iloski, the Bruins third leading point scorer from a season ago, is now set to lead the team into a new era under Jorden, one in which he’ll be the team’s go-to guy from the start.

Redshirt senior defender Matthew Powell (No. 28) takes the reigns of the Bruin back line in his final season with the team, taking over a defensive unit that will be without two of its key players from last season. Powell logged the third most minutes on the team in 2018, playing in all 19 matches while sitting for just 51 minutes. His efforts at center back earned him Second Team All-Pac 12, but will have far greater responsibilities on his plate this season compared to last.

Sophomore goalkeeper Justin Garces (No. 1) immediately become UCLA’s top keeper in his freshman season with the team, starting in every game while setting freshman program records at his position for GAA and wins. He recorded a career-high seven saves in 1-0 victory of Northwestern in the Bruins’ first game of 2019, as well as a four save performance against No. 2 Indiana. Garces recorded his first career shutout against the Terps last season, and will be looking to do more of the same this season.

Strength

Generating scoring chances. Though a different team from last year, the Bruins will definitely be aiming to recreate some of the same success they had at attacking goal as last year’s squad did. In 2018, UCLA generated 5.89 shots on goal per game as well as 13.63 total shots per game, both of which put them in the top 50 of all Division I. The Terps allowed a mediocre Virginia offense total 10 shots in the first half of last Monday’s match, and they could find themselves in a similar spot against a more talented attack.

Weakness

Discipline on the ball. The 2018 Bruins were one of the heaviest penalized teams in Division I, receiving 38 yellow cards in 19 matches to pace the Pac-12 in bookings as well as finish tied for 11th in the country for total cards assessed. The team is under new leadership now, so Jorden could place an emphasis on cleaning things up on the ball, so we’ll have to wait and see whether the constant fouls continue.

Three things to watch

  1. How many healthy forwards will the Terps have? Cirovski and the Terps have had a host of injuries to deal with already this season, mostly within the team’s forwards. After forward Will Hervé suffered a lower body injury against USF that kept him from playing the next match, forward Luke Brown injured his hip in the following game. Cirovski said earlier in the week that Brown is day-to-day and that his status for Friday’s match was still TBA, and that Hervé was “progressing” but is still week-to-week. Without likely either of the two, the Terps will be forced to rely on junior Eric Matzelevich and sophomore Brayan Padilla to handle most of the forward minutes.
  2. Who will start in cage? Cirovski has played coy as to which direction he’s leaning in regard to who will take the majority of playing time in net for the Terps, even going as far to say he may rotate goalkeepers Russell Shealy and Niklas Neumann all season. Neumann got the last start, making three saves and allowing two goals, while Shealy got the shutout against USF in the match prior. It should be interesting to see who Cirovski trots out Friday night, and whether either keeper can separate themselves from the other.
  3. The Terps need the attack to show up. Maryland is no stranger to struggling to score early in the season, but it remains to be seen as to whether they will struggle as much as they did last season as they will this season. If the Terp offense can’t get themselves into a rhythm against the Bruins, we could see them start to fall into another slow start to the season offensively.