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Maryland men’s soccer vs. Rutgers preview

The Terps desperately need a win as they head back on the road to try and turn their season around.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s soccer will take on its third opponent of the season, still in search of its first win, as it heads to Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Wednesday afternoon.

The Terps have yet to find their winning form as they’ve dropped two games to start the season, with one loss coming to Penn State and the most recent defeat coming at the hands of Ohio State in a tightly fought 1-0 loss at Ludwig Field in College Park. This is the worst start to a season for the program since before head coach Sasho Cirovski was hired for the 1993 season.

Maryland has certainly started its 10 game season on a sour note, but the team has a chance to turn that around in the Rutgers matchup.

After the Terps face the Scarlet Knights, they head back home to play Wisconsin on Mar. 7 and then go back on the road once again to face Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Mar. 11.

Wednesday’s matchup with Rutgers begins at 12 p.m. and will air on BTN Plus. Let’s take a look at what Maryland is up against in its third match of the season.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-1)

2019 record: 7-8-3 (1-6-1 Big Ten)

Head coach Jim McElderry was hired in 2018, now in his second full season as the head coach of the Rutgers men’s soccer program. Before Rutgers, McElderry led Fordham to three NCAA Tournament appearances and two Atlantic 10 championships across the last five seasons he was the head coach there.

In the first season as the head coach of Rutgers in 2019, he helped the Scarlet Knights win six of their first eight matches and the program was given a No. 22 nation ranking in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, before crumbling in Big Ten play. Looking at 2021, the Scarlet Knights have won two of their first three matches. Rutgers has taken down Michigan State and Wisconsin thus far, now looking to collect its third win of the season when it hosts Maryland.

Players to know

Sophomore midfielder Temple Jackson (No. 12) — Jackson has been the most efficient forward for the Scarlet Knights through three games this season. The sophomore netted in goals against Penn State and Wisconsin, while also chipping in with two assists in the win over Michigan State. He has been on the field for at least 88 minutes in two of the three matches thus far, so he will surely see a good portion of time on the field when the Terps come to visit. Look for Jackson to be one of the main focal points of the Scarlet Knights’ offense come Wednesday.

Senior forward Ritchie Barry (No. 14) — In his first season with Rutgers after transferring from St. Joseph’s, Barry has looked right at home just a few games into the season. The senior scored in the season opener against Michigan State to help give Rutgers its first win of the season and has added three total shots this season. Barry has been featured in at least 49 minutes on the field in every game for Rutgers and he’ll look to provide his experience as a veteran against Maryland for the team’s fourth game of the campaign.

Senior defender Vincent Borden (No. 24) — Borden will look to bolster the Scarlet Knights’ backline when they face the Terps. The 6-foot-3, 165 pound defenseman provides a ton of size for Rutgers on the defensive end. Borden has played in every minute on the pitch this season for the Scarlet Knights and has helped them acquire two shutout victories. He’ll certainly be guiding Rutgers’ backline as the team hunts for its third shutout win of the season.

Strength

Defense. With three matches and two victories, Rutgers has been able to use its strong defense as a weapon against its opponents. The Scarlet Knights shut out Michigan State and Wisconsin in their wins earlier this season. Rutgers has given up just two goals this season and is averaging just 0.67 goals against per game. With a struggling Maryland offense, which has just two goals and nine shots on goal this year, coming to town, Rutgers will surely rely on its defense once again.

Weakness

Discipline. Despite a strong start to the 2021 campaign, it seems as though Rutgers really struggles with the amount of fouls it surrenders on a game-to-game basis. Through three matches this season, the Scarlet Knights have out-fouled their opponents, 48-39. Collectively, Rutgers has accumulated five yellow cards and one red card as well. It’ll surely be a physical match on Wednesday, and if Maryland’s offense is able to press Rutgers’ backline consistently, it may be fortunate to draw a decent amount of fouls.

Three things to watch

1. Is Eric Matzelevich fit to play? Maryland’s leading scorer from 2019 has been dealing with a lower-body issue and has only seen three minutes on the field for the Terps in 2021. His return to full health is critical for Cirovski’s squad and Maryland will need him back on the pitch sooner rather than later if it hopes to turn their season around quickly.

2. Look out for the play of the youngsters on the Terps’ roster. Freshman Ben Bender may have been the best player on the pitch for Maryland in its loss to Ohio State. Jacen Russell-Rowe will continue to see more time on the field as Matzelevich heals. Jamie Lowell has certainly improved with his confidence in net and will look to be a difference maker against Rutgers. Long story short, the Terps have an array of dynamic young players that can make positive impacts. Keep an eye on the freshmen that Cirovski will look to deploy against the Scarlet Knights.

3. Will Maryland be able to find its balance on the pitch? The Terps had two very different losses to start out the season. Against Penn State, the first half collapse did Maryland in and the defense couldn’t recover from a slow start. In the 1-0 loss to Ohio State, the Terps’ offense was often lethargic and couldn’t generate many quality chances. Maryland will need to solve its performance issues on the field against Rutgers, or else the Terps will have an even larger hole to dig themselves out of as the 2021 season progresses.