Maryland Terrapins Men’s Soccer Preview
There are few teams at any level of collegiate soccer that can lose seven starters, four of whom were named to an All-ACC team last season, and still be ranked No. 4 in the country the very next season. Such is the case though with the Maryland Terrapins, who need to replace players who combined to score 32 of the team’s 61 goals last season (52.5 percent).
The Terps return a mostly young and talented group of players highlighted by All-ACC senior forward Casey Townsend, 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year forward Patrick Mullins and defensive stalwarts Taylor Kemp and Alex Lee. Head coach Sasho Cirovski, entering his 19th season at Maryland, said his program, which has been to five College Cups and won two National Championships in the last nine years, has not lowered the bar with what they expect to achieve this season, even with a much different-looking squad this year compared to the team that bowed out to Michigan in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last season.
“As usual, we have high expectations for our team this year in spite of losing a lot of talented players, three underclassmen and seven starters, our goal is still the same,” said Cirovski. “We want to win an ACC Championship and we want to win a National Championship.”
The Terps have set the bar for success in the program high, but they certainly have an impressive list of players who played smaller roles last year and will have the opportunity to see increased playing time and responsibility on the pitch in 2011.
“They were big-time players,” Townsend said of the departed Terps. “But I think people are going to be surprised at how good we are because we have a lot of players that haven’t played that are very good players that people just don’t know about.”
Some of those players figure to be midfielders John Stertzer (two goals and two assists in 21 games last season), Kaoru Forbess (three goals in 21 games last season), Helge Leikvang (one goal and one assist in 18 games last season), forward Matt Oduaran (one goal and one assist in 15 games last season) and defender London Woodberry (one goal and three assists in 14 games last season). Cirovski said that two players who redshirted due to injury last season, midfielder Widner Saint Cyr and forward Jordan Cyrus, will also play more prominent roles this season now that they are healthy.
They will be joined by a skilled freshman class that features goalkeeper Jordan Tatum, American U-18 National Team goalie Keith Cardona, Canadian U-17 National Team defender Parker Seymour and three College Soccer News top-35 recruits in defender Kyle Roach (No. 34) and midfielders Dan Metzger (No. 29) and Alex Shinsky (No. 2, No. 1 recruit according toTopDrawerSoccer.com). The incoming freshman class and crop of returning players give Cirovski the most flexibility to mix-and-match in the midfield.
“I think that’s the position we have the greatest depth in,” said Cirovski of the midfield. “I’d say we have seven or eight players capable of starting for the four positions. I think we’re going to have, probably, a lot more rotation in the midfield this year than in years past.”
However, it may be a player who did not play a single minute last year who has the greatest impact on Maryland’s season. Will Swaim started 20 games in goal for Maryland from 2007 through 2009 before redshirting in 2010. Cirovski said he is the frontrunner to start at goalie for the team’s first regular season match on August 26 against St. John’s, a rematch of the double-overtime College Cup semifinal thriller in 2008 (a 1-0 Terps victory). His decision to return to College Park for a fifth year provides Maryland with an experienced keeper who knows the rigors of playing a full season in college soccer’s toughest conference.
“It was a great opportunity to play,” Swaim said. “After partnering with Zac (MacMath) for the past couple years I felt like I learned a lot. It’s also a great opportunity to go to school.”
Cirovski said that while Swaim will split time this season in net with Cardona and Tatum, his biggest concern right now at the position was getting Swaim back up to full speed after redshirting last season.
“I think his (Swaim’s) veteran leadership and knowledge of how we want to play is very important,” Cirovski said. “And Will’s good. Let’s not forget, he was our starting keeper in 2007. He’s a very good goalkeeper. We just want to get his game speed up as quickly as possible.”
Despite the unusually large number of new players who will be stepping into unfamiliar roles that come with a lot of responsibility this season, Cirovski said the team’s leadership, coming from many different sources, and ability to come together as one so far has been very impressive to see.
“All of these kids were here everyday together this summer,” said Cirovski. “I think there is a collective respect among the players that they’ve all given each other permission to lead. It’s a kind of a nice chemistry we have together within the group now.”
That respect and combined leadership should be crucial for a team that could struggle at times as they wait to gel and get in sync with one another. A number of new players in the lineup could lead to some growing pains at times as the players get used to each other’s tendencies on the pitch. However, once they find that chemistry that can only grow with time, the Terps should continue to improve as the season goes along.
“We’ll be a team that gets better with time,” Townsend said. “It’s going to take a couple games to get used to playing with each other because we’re going to have a lot of new players on the field, and I think with time, we’ll get better and better and I hope we come together at the right time.”
There will be seven new starters in the lineup, but Maryland has a number of talented players who will get the first opportunity of their collegiate careers to make major contributions to the club this year. Even with a much-different looking team than last year, the goal is still the same. The Terps think they are just as good as any other team in the country.
“Last year we got to the quarterfinals and it felt like a disappointment,” Cirovski said. “Unfortunately, that’s the standard that we set for ourselves. Now, we had a great year last year. We won the ACC Championship and we played extremely well in the game that we lost but yet, I think the fans, myself, the players have a pretty empty feeling. We’re not afraid of the challenge we set for ourselves, or the bar we set for ourselves. I don’t think any of these kids would be happy with anything less than a trip to Alabama this year or coming back with an ACC title.”