Maryland men’s soccer (3-3) is back in action and will travel to Evanston, Illinois, to take on the Northwestern Wildcats Saturday afternoon as the Terps look to get over a .500 record for the first time this season.
“We’re looking forward to the match this weekend, we were very disappointed to not have the opportunity to play on Tuesday,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We’re ready to go, we’re in good form, and we’re looking forward to the match.”
The Terps have been cruising ever since dropping their first three matches of the season, and have taken down the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State. Maryland has outscored its opponents 5-2 during its current three-game winning streak and redshirt senior forward Paul Bin received Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after scoring two goals in his last three matches.
Maryland’s last game, which was supposed to be against Rutgers on March 23 in College Park, was postponed “due to matters unrelated to positive COVID cases” according to the press release. The Terps’ matchup against Northwestern comes eight days after its last match.
Now, Maryland has three official games left on its regular-season schedule, excluding the possible rescheduling of the Rutgers matchup. Next up for the Terps will be the Wildcats on the road in what will be another important game for Maryland to collect points.
After Maryland faces Northwestern, it heads back home to play Penn State on March 31, and then Indiana on April 4 on the road.
Saturday’s match with Northwestern begins at 4 p.m. and will air on BTN Plus. Let’s take a look at what Maryland is up against in its seventh match of the season.
Northwestern Wildcats (2-5-1)
2019 record: 8-8-2 (3-3-2 Big Ten)
Head coach Tim Lenahan has been at the helm of the Wildcats’ coaching staff since their 2001 season. He was named the 2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year and has led Northwestern to nine NCAA Tournament appearances. Lenahan collected his 300th win in 2019 as the Wildcats finished towards the middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten standings.
However, this season Lenahan and Northwestern have faced a fair amount of adversity. The Wildcats have just two wins in eight matches and are winless in their last five games (0-4-1). Northwestern currently sits in third-to-last in the Big Ten standings, as it looks to collect its first win since Feb. 27, where it took down first-place Indiana, 1-0.
Players to know
Sophomore forward Ugo Achara Jr. (No. 10) — Achara Jr. has been the driving force for Northwestern’s attack as the squad nearly hits the end of its regular season. The sophomore has collected a team-high five goals on 18 shot attempts, for a grand total of 11 points. The next best Wildcat has just one goal on the season, as there are five different Northwestern players that have scored one. The Nigerian is a key cog for the Wildcats’ offense and he even scored the game-winning goal against Indiana back on Feb. 27. If Maryland wants to continue its defensive success as of late, it starts with shutting down Achara Jr. when Northwestern is on the attack.
Sophomore midfielder Vicente Castro (No. 6) — Castro is another important player for Northwestern’s attacking play. The sophomore has totaled the second-most shot attempts on the team with seven and has the second-most points on the Wildcats’ roster with five. Castro has started in seven of Northwestern’s eight matches this season and tallied one goal against Ohio State on March 7. The midfielder has certainly been more active on the offensive end recently, as he collected six shots on target in the last five games. Look out for Castro to be a factor in the attacking third for Northwestern.
Graduate student defender Spencer Farina (No. 23) — It can be argued that Farina is the best defender on this Wildcats’ roster. The defender has started in all eight matches this season for Northwestern and has played in 732 minutes on the pitch, the most on the roster. Farina has guided the Wildcats to one shutout victory this year while chipping in with three assists that he tallied earlier in the season. Farina is a solid defender that stands at 6-foot-3 and will be a major defensive factor for Northwestern against the Terps come Saturday.
Shots on goal. Northwestern doesn’t take many shots on a per game basis with an average of just seven attempts a match, but when it does shoot, it gets the ball on goal. Through eight matches, 27 shot attempts have landed on target out of 56 tries (48.2%). The Wildcats certainly look for quality over quantity, and if they fire on the net it’s fairly likely to reach the goal in some capacity.
Scoring. Luckily for Maryland and its improving defense, the Wildcats are coming into this match on a bit of a goal-scoring drought as a team. Northwestern averages just 1.25 goals per game through eight matches. After scoring a whopping six goals in their first two matches, the Wildcats have scored just four goals in the last six matches. That drop-off in goals should help the Terps’ defense tremendously, as Maryland has conceded two goals in its last three games.
Three things to watch
1. Will Bin continue his torrid scoring run? The captain for this Maryland team has provided his best performances yet during the Terps’ three-game winning streak in the month of March.
“That kid has put in so much work to be back where he was in 2018, I was so happy to see when he was given that because he deserves that and so much more,” sophomore midfielder Malcolm Johnston said about Bin coming back from his torn ACL and being rewarded Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. “I’m so proud of him and the whole team is so hopefully keeps going and keep scoring goals for us.”
Against Michigan, Bin provided the game-winning goal in the 70th minute. Then, Bin produced the next time out against Michigan State, scoring the only two goals of the match for Maryland in the win. It’s clear that the senior has only gotten better as this season has progressed and he’ll look to keep it going against Northwestern.
“It’s been awesome to see Paul sort of find his mojo, his groove,” Cirovski said. “Each game has gotten a little bit sharper and better on the attacking side so, he’s right now in very good form and really providing a lot of inspiration.”
2. Can the Terps’ defense thrive once again? In the first three games of the season, Maryland gave up six goals while scoring just two. Since that 0-3 start, the Terps’ improved defense has propelled them to nine points on the season. In its last three matches, Maryland has conceded just two goals (one of those coming in the 90th minute). The Terps have simply shut their opponents’ attack down as of late and it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it rolling against the Wildcats.
“I think it’s kind of been displayed throughout the last couple games, it’s just a lot more intensity and I think we’re holding each other a little bit more accountable,” redshirt sophomore midfielder/defender Nick Richardson said about the team’s defense. “It’s just all coming together a little bit more than it was in the beginning of the season.”
3. Can Maryland continue to collect important points? Maryland has flipped its season around in its last three matches to improve to fourth in the Big Ten standings in the points per game statistic (1.5). Northwestern is located towards the bottom of the conference, making it another game for the Terps that they need to take care of to avoid an upset. It continues to be now-or-never for Maryland if it wants to finish in the top portion of the standings, as Indiana and Penn State still loom in the near distance on the schedule, along with a rematch with Rutgers, granted if its previous match is rescheduled to a later time.