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Maryland men’s soccer vs Michigan preview

The Terps look to build momentum off of their first win of the season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s soccer (1-3) is looking to collect its second win in 2021 as it heads back on the road for the third time this season to face the Michigan Wolverines Thursday in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Terps grabbed their first three points of the season in their fourth match when they defeated last-place Wisconsin, 1-0, in College Park last Sunday. Freshman forward Jacen Russell-Rowe nabbed the game-winning goal, which was his team-leading second tally of the season.

Even with the recent home win, Maryland still sits towards the bottom of the Big Ten standings. The Terps are only ahead of Wisconsin and tied with Michigan State.

After the match against Michigan, the Terps will have a two-game homestand. Maryland will take on Michigan State on March 19 and will then face Rutgers for a second time on March 23.

Thursday’s matchup with Michigan begins at 11 a.m. and will air on BTN Plus. Let’s take a look at what Maryland is up against in its fifth match of the season.

Michigan Wolverines (3-0)

2019 record: 11-5-6 (4-1-3 Big Ten)

Head coach Chaka Daley is in his ninth season as the head coach for the Michigan men’s soccer program. He currently holds a record of 75-59-27 at the helm of the Wolverines. Over the last three years, Daley has made Michigan a staple team in the Big Ten. He helped the Wolverines capture a Big Ten title in 2017 and Michigan has had a record of 38-16-12 since the start of that season. Last season, the Wolverines’ 11 wins marked their third consecutive season with at least 10 victories.

This season, Daley is looking to help Michigan to another Big Ten title with a strong 3-0 start. The Wolverines have already taken down the likes of Northwestern, Michigan State and Rutgers en route to a perfect start.

Players to know

Junior midfielder Kevin Buca (No. 19) — Buca is having the best start out of any player on Michigan’s roster in the 2021 campaign. The junior has a team-leading three assists and he also collected one goal, which proved to be the game-winner against Michigan State back on Feb. 23. Buca has started in all three matches for the Wolverines this season and has taken major strides forward from his first two seasons in a Michigan uniform. The 5-foot-5 midfielder will certainly be all over the pitch come Thursday and the Terps need to monitor where he is at all times.

Senior midfielder Marc Ybarra (No. 23) — Ybarra is another strong and experienced weapon in the midfield for the Wolverines. Standing at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Ybarra has the ability to impact the game with his playmaking and his scoring. He has one goal and one assist thus far, and the senior has managed at least one shot on goal in every match this season after starting in all three games. In 2019, Ybarra was named to the 2019 All-Big Ten Second Team and the United Soccer Coaches All-North Region Third Team. He’s an impact player that will see a lot of minutes on the field against Maryland.

Senior defender Jackson Ragen (No. 25) — If you’re looking for an all-purpose workhorse defenseman, search no further than the likes of Ragen. The 6-foot-6, 200 pound defenseman out of Seattle is a critical member of the Wolverines’ backline. The senior has started in all three matches and played 274 minutes on the pitch for Michigan this season. Ragen has helped the Wolverines concede just one goal this season, en route to two shutouts in three matches. He also tallied one goal on his only shot attempt against Northwestern on Feb. 19. Ragen is a dynamic defenseman who will look to thwart Maryland’s attack.

Strength

Defense. Michigan has been able to get off to a hot start this season primarily because of its stout defense through three matches. The Wolverines have conceded just one goal thus far and have collected two shutouts, as they are outscoring their opponents 6-1 this season. Michigan has allowed just six shots on goal to their opponents. If Maryland can find a way to capture a big win on the road, it’ll have to find a way to break through the wall that is Michigan’s defense.

Weakness

Discipline. While there aren’t many clear weaknesses to point out with Michigan's play through three matches, it is averaging over 10 fouls per game. The Wolverines have had seven yellow cards issued to them already this season, along with one red card. Maryland will need to be on the right side of the referee’s whistle if it hopes to get some points on Thursday.

Three things to watch

1. Will Russell-Rowe continue to standout? With Maryland senior forward and captain Eric Matzelevich currently ailing with an injury, freshman Russell-Rowe has stepped in and been one of the best players for the Terps through four matches. Maryland has scored just three goals this season and Russell-Rowe has put in two of them, with both of them coming from outside the box. The freshman has looked quite comfortable at his natural forward position in his first season at the collegiate level and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was able to put another ball in the back of the net against Michigan.

2. Will the Terps’ backline be a source of strength for the second straight game? For the first time this season against Wisconsin, Maryland was able to shut out its opponent through 90 minutes. The Badgers collected just two shots on target on two tries against the Terps in what was a dominant defensive performance. If Maryland hopes to find similar success against Michigan, it will once again need to provide a strong defensive effort once more as it looks to capture its second win on the season.

3. How will Maryland perform against its arguably toughest opponent to date? Even though it faced Penn State in the first match of the season, Michigan may be an even more talented opponent. The Wolverines currently sit as the top team in the Big Ten and are the only undefeated team as well. Michigan’s defense is certainly one to fear and Maryland’s struggling offense will need to find a way to break through on the road. The Terps’ momentum from their first win will need to be applied on the pitch come Thursday, as the team desperately needs to collect at least a point as we approach the halfway mark of the season.