Maryland men’s soccer (4-3) will face Penn State (6-1) for the second time this season, this time at Ludwig Field, on Wednesday. The Terps are looking for their fifth consecutive win as it nears the conclusion of its regular season schedule.
After starting the season with three straight losses and zero points to show for it in the Big Ten standings, Maryland has completely turned its season around. Since its winless start, the Terps have taken down Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern. Maryland is now fourth in the Big Ten on points, trailing Michigan, Penn State, and Indiana.
After the Terps take on the Nittany Lions at home, they will finish their regular season schedule with a tough matchup against Indiana (7-1) on the road.
Wednesday’s match was moved to noon due to impending weather, but will still be televised on Big Ten Network. Let’s take a look at what Maryland is up against in its eighth match of the season.
What happened last time
To say Maryland’s last match against Penn State started out on a sour note would be an understatement. The Terps were still gelling together as a young team and the first half against the Nittany Lions made that evident.
Penn State kicked off the match with a quick goal in the 5th minute to damper Maryland’s mood. The Nittany Lions applied a ton of pressure on Maryland’s young back line, and the inexperience showed.
Penn State eventually poured it on the Terps’ freshman goalie, Jamie Lowell, as it scored the next two goals of the half. The Nittany Lions put one past Lowell in the 25th minute, and then added another just nine minutes later to push the score to 3-0.
Maryland luckily found a quick response, as freshman midfielder Joe Suchecki buried home the first goal of the Terps’ season off a penalty kick to bring the deficit back to two just before the end of the half.
The second half saw Maryland’s defense improve over the next 45 minutes, as it didn’t allow another goal for Penn State the rest of the way.
The Terps’ comeback attempt was brought to life in the 74th minute, as freshman forward Jacen Russell-Rowe smashed home his first career goal from long distance to bring the score to 3-2.
Maryland’s push for an equalizer ultimately wasn’t meant to be, unable to score the tying goal over the final 15 minutes. Penn State went on to win the season opener in a 3-2 victory.
What’s happened since
Maryland’s season has been anything but conventional since dropping its first match to Penn State in mid-February.
After the loss, the Terps went on to drop each of their next two games. Maryland lost to Ohio State, 1-0, and then fell to Rutgers, 0-2, as its offense failed to produce a single goal in either contest.
However, after their 0-3 start, the Terps managed to quickly turn the ship around by stringing together a few solid wins.
Maryland got its first win of the season against Wisconsin on March 7 in a one-goal shutout victory. Then, the Terps took down then-No. 6 Michigan on the road to make it two straight with a 2-1 win. Maryland went on to capture its third straight win against Michigan State, and then most recently took down Northwestern to make it four in a row.
Redshirt senior forward Paul Bin has been the star of the show for the Terps, recently winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after tallying three goals in the team’s two wins over Michigan and Michigan State. He also chipped in an assist in the Terps’ 2-1 victory over Northwestern on March 27.
Thanks to Bin’s resurgent run of form, Maryland has managed to climb back inside the top half of the Big Ten standings after beginning the season among the league’s worst.
“Two weeks ago, the atmosphere was just like daunting,” Bin said. “We were seriously considering like, oh my gosh, is this going to be worst possible Maryland soccer season that we’re about to embark on here in the history of the program? And then now two weeks from then, we were saying how now we’re looking at potentially, you know, hopefully finishing second in the Big Ten and winning the tournament, so I think it went from a really low to a really high.”
On the other hand, Penn State has been one of the best teams in the Big Ten since its victory against the Terps.
The Nittany Lions have won six of their first seven matches with their lone loss coming against Michigan State in a 1-0 defeat back on Feb. 27. The Nittany Lions have taken down the likes of Maryland, Rutgers twice, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin, with their matches against Michigan and Indiana both being postponed earlier this season.
Penn State comes into Wednesday’s contest riding a four-game winning streak, with three of those victories finishing with 1-0 scorelines.
The Nittany Lions haven’t conceded a goal since their 4-2 win against Rutgers back on March 15. Their defense has been one of the best in the conference this season, conceding the second-fewest goals to sit in second place in the Big Ten standings.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland’s offense be able to break through Penn State’s stingy defense? The strength of this year’s Penn State team is clearly its defense, holding opponents to just 0.86 goals per game and just under 12 shots per game as well. Maryland, on the other hand, has found some success as of late on the offensive end. The Terps have scored six goals in its last three matches and have done a much better job of working the ball into dangerous areas in their opponents’ attacking third. It’ll be interesting to see if Maryland can solve Penn State’s strong defensive scheme come Wednesday.
2. Can the Terps continue to produce points despite their injuries? Starting sophomore goalie Niklas Neumann was forced to sit out Maryland’s last match against Northwestern due to an injury. Russell-Rowe, who has been a surprise success for this Terps team, didn’t see the field last match due to an injury as well. Senior forward Eric Matzelevich, the leading goal-scorer for Maryland in 2019, is still finding his form after returning from a nagging injury. The Terps have constantly had a depleted lineup, which has forced other players to step up. Only time will tell if Maryland can continue to succeed even with its mounting injuries.
3. Will Maryland survive its toughest match since its win over Michigan? Since its win over Michigan back on March 11, Maryland won against Michigan State and Northwestern. And while it was very important for the Terps to collect three points in each of those matches, those wins didn’t come against the strongest of opponents. The Spartans and the Wildcats can both be found towards the basement of the Big Ten standings, while Penn State is one of the top teams in the conference. This will certainly be a tough task for Maryland, but it is entering in top form as it prepares to take on a one-loss team in Penn State.
“I don’t think we can be in any better form, obviously seven wins in-a-row would have been probably ideal, but we’re in the best form of our lives right now,” Bin said. “I think we’re playing so together, I think that’s the that’s the fun thing about it, we’re all on the same page.”