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Maryland men’s soccer vs Wisconsin preview

The Terps are still searching for their first win of the season as they return home to face the Badgers.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s soccer is looking to overcome its poor start to the 2021 season, still in the hunt for its first win as it returns back to Ludwig Field in College Park to face the Wisconsin Badgers Sunday afternoon.

The Terps have yet to nab any points through three matches this season, as they have dropped all of their games to the likes of Penn State, Ohio State and Rutgers. 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 been outscored, 6-2, amidst its three-game losing streak. The Terps were most recently shut out by Rutgers in a 2-0 defeat on the road last Wednesday afternoon.

After facing Wisconsin, Maryland will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan on March 11 to take on the Wolverines, who currently sit in second place in the Big Ten.

Sunday’s matchup with Wisconsin begins at 2:30 p.m. and will air on BTN Plus. Let’s take a look at what Maryland is up against in its fourth match of the season.

Wisconsin Badgers (0-3)

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

Head coach John Trask has been at the helm of the Badgers since their 2010 season. Before entering the 2021 campaign, he held a 132-107-59 (.542) record as a head coach. And with three losses to begin the season, Trask now has a record of 78-86-33 at Wisconsin.

Back in 2013, he brought Wisconsin to its first NCAA Tournament berth in 18 years and its first postseason win since its national title team in 1995. However, despite past success, the last few seasons have been a struggle for the Badgers to stay afloat in the Big Ten. This season, Wisconsin sits in a tie for last place with Maryland in the conference standings with three losses in three matches.

Players to know

Junior forward Andrew Akindele (No. 8) — Akindele has easily been the best attacking figure on this Badgers’ roster despite the rough start to the season. The Chicago native tallied one of Wisconsin’s two goals that it has scored this season, doing so against Northwestern back on Feb. 23. He has started all three matches for the Badgers this season and he has collected seven shot attempts, with two of those being on target. Look for Akindele to be a key cog in Wisconsin’s attack, as he has the most attempted shots on the team this season thus far by a wide margin.

Junior defender Moritz Kappelsberger (No. 5) — If the Terps hope to get it going on the offensive end of the pitch, they will first have to get past the likes of Kappelsberger. The junior has played in all 270 minutes this season for the Badgers in three starts. He’s a lengthy and aggressive defender who will most likely see a ton of playing time against Maryland’s attacking front. The 6-foot-4 German also has some offensive upside to his game, as he has managed two shot attempts this season. Keep an eye on Kappelsberger’s ability to guide Wisconsin’s backline when it visits Maryland.

Junior forward Henri Tophoven (No. 11) — Tophoven is another offensive weapon for Trask and the Badgers. He has started in all three matches for Wisconsin this season and totaled the only other goal that the Badgers have scored, which also came against Northwestern. The transfer from Mercyhurst University has managed the third-most shot attempts on the team this season.

Strength

Generating shots. Despite scoring just two goals en route to three straight losses, Wisconsin surprisingly gets in a ton of shots per game on its opponents. Through three matches, the Badgers average just over 10 shots per game, which is two more on average compared to their opponents. Even if they aren't the highest quality chances, look for Wisconsin to fire away from all areas of the field when it’s in Maryland’s defensive third.

Weakness

Defending. In its three losses that came against the likes of Indiana, Northwestern and Rutgers, the Badgers were outscored 9-2. Wisconsin gives up an average of three goals per game in what has been a struggle to defend its opponents in dangerous areas this season. Look for Maryland’s attack to press heavy on Wisconsin’s back line.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland have a depleted lineup once again? Maryland captain and senior forward Eric Matzelevich, the Terps’ leading goal scorer in 2019, has played just three minutes through three matches. Justin Gielen, who was expected to be a goal-scoring presence for the Terps this season, has totaled no shots on goal and just 34 minutes played in the last two games. With the Di Rosa twins gone and Maryland’s forwards struggling to remain healthy, it’ll be interesting to see which players step out onto the field Sunday afternoon.

2. Will this be the game that Maryland gets its offense going? The Terps have yet to get much going on the offensive end this season. With only two goals scored, Maryland desperately needs its scoring power to return to the pitch, especially as it takes on a fairly weak Wisconsin defense. Despite averaging 12.3 shot attempts per game, the Terps have hit the target on just 13 of 37 attempts; that’s not a strong margin for getting shots on goal. The Badgers have given up nine goals in three games this season, so the story of the match will be if Maryland can capitalize on its opponent’s weakness.

3. How will the Terps look coming off of three straight losses? It’s safe to say that it’s now or never for Cirovski and the Terps. Maryland is taking on its partner in the Big Ten basement and the Terps simply can’t afford to leave Ludwig Field without a win if it hopes to climb the Big Ten standings. After the completion of this match, Maryland will have just six chances remaining in the regular season. The Terps need a win now more than ever, as two of those six remaining matches will come against tough opponents in Indiana and Penn State.