Maryland - Five Star Recruiting Class - If you advanced to the College Cup (Final Four) in 2012, won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles, and return eight starters including the Hermann Trophy winner, then you are definitely a serious contender for the national championship in 2013.
In addition to eight returning starters, the Terps also return a talented group of non-starters from the 2012 team who are significant contributors. Maryland is among the elite of college soccer which means they annually lose a few talented players due to graduation and they annually add a marquee recruiting class.
Departures due to graduation from the 2012 team that was 20-1-3 overall include midfielder John Stertzer (7g, 7a) and defenders London Woodberry (3g, 3a) and Taylor Kemp. All three were very talented multi-year impact players.
Maryland's incoming six member recruiting class includes three players who are ranked by College Soccer News as among the top fifty players in the high school class of 2013. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defender Suli Dainkeh and center back Alex Crongnale are ranked as the number ten, thirty-eight, and forty-eight recruits respectively in the class of 2013. Terp head coach Sasho Cirovski stated, "All six of these young men have great skill sets and will make their mark in our program." He added, "Integrating this group with an outstanding and hungry returning group makes us very excited about the potential of this team in 2013."
It is pretty much a given that the talent level at Maryland will be high but in those seasons in which departures are limited to graduation only and does not include players who have elected to leave early to enter the professional ranks, the Terps are particularly strong. That is the case heading into the 2013 season.
It all starts at Maryland with Cirovski who will enter his twenty-first season at the helm of the program in 2013. He is as good as they get at effectively merging together the individual talents of his players into a unified and motivated team. The next key factor is the decision of 2012 All-American and Hermann Trophy winner Patrick Mullins (17g, 10a) to return to College Park for his senior season. Mullins, who was responsible for seven game-winning goals last year, is pretty much a complete player and the go-to guy in a very powerful Terp offense. Combine the talents that Mullins and the other Maryland upper classmen bring to the table with the young Terp talent that now has a year of experience and the end result is a team that is primed and eager for a run at the 2013 national championship.
Maryland had the top goal scoring offense in the country last year. With players who scored fifty-four of the sixty-four goals that the Terps put in the back of the net last year slated to return it is highly likely that Maryland will once again have a high powered and multi-dimensional attack in 2013. Mullins will be joined up top by senior speedster Sunny Jane (2g, 4a), and sophomore Schillo Tshuma (10g, 2a) who was a 2012 All-ACC Second Team selection and a College Soccer News First Team All-Freshman selection. Both Jane and Tshuma are high energy team players who can light up the back of the net as a forward or as a midfielder. Redshirt senior Jake Pace (5g, 3a) and sophomore Christiano Francois (5g, 4a) who played in twenty-four matches last year are among other returning forwards who add additional firepower to the Terp attack. Maryland will have plenty of thunder and lightning up-top in 2013.
The Terps lose a centerpiece due to the graduation of All-American John Stertzer. Stertzer was a box to box midfielder who made an impact on both sides of the ball and was a team leader. Junior central midfielder Dan Metzger (3g, 1a) is among key returning players who will be counted on to help fill that void. Redshirt sophomore Jereme Raley (1g, 1a) and junior Mikias Tticha (1g, 1a) who split time last year are among other returning midfielders who should play key roles in 2013. Other returning linkmen who look to be in the mix include redshirt senior Widner Saint Cyr (1g, 0a) who missed a large portion of the 2012 season due to injury, senior Helge Leikvang (0g, 2a), junior Alex Shinsky (0g, 2a), sophomore Tsubasa Endoh (0g, 2a), and sophomore David Kabelik (1g, 2a).
While Maryland plays an up-tempo attack oriented style of soccer, Cirovski would be among the first to emphasize that in order for the Terps to achieve their goals of winning the ACC regular season title, the ACC tournament title, and a national championship they must play solid team defense.
The graduation of backs London Woodberry and Taylor Kemp means there are some key pieces to be replaced in the backline. Returning backs include redshirt senior Jordan Cyrus who switched from the forward position to a defensive role last year due to Kemp's injury, sophomore center back Dakota Edwards (1g, 1a) and sophomore right back Mikey Ambrose (1g, 7a) who was a 2012 All-ACC Second Team selection. Edwards and Ambrose now have the benefit of a year of collegiate experience which should be a big plus for the Terps. Juniors Kyle Roach and Marquez Fernandez are among other returning backs who look to be in the mix. Newcomers Alex Crongnale and Suli Dainkeh are extremely talented and should challenge for playing time but they will face a learning curve perhaps made more difficult without the likes of veteran backs Woodberry and Kemp on the pitch.
Highly regarded junior Keith Cardona who was the starter last year returns in goal. Last year he posted a 1.14 goals against average and recorded six shutouts. Junior Jordan Tatum who had four starts last year also returns between the pipes for Maryland.
Maryland had a phenomenal season last year but if there's a single enduring memory it is their disappointing loss to Georgetown in the semifinals of the 2012 College Cup in which the Terps fell in penalty kicks after the contest was knotted at 4-4 at the end of regulation and overtime. Despite a tremendous rally on the part of the Terps to knot the score the fact remains that Maryland put four in the back of the net and still didn't advance. Further evidence of the fact that when it is all said and done Maryland's play on the defensive side of the ball will likely be the factor that ultimately determines how far they advance.
At the conclusion of the loss to Georgetown, Cirovski stated, "We're going to get better from that game. We've got some great young talent. We're going to begin the process of getting back to next year's College Cup immediately."
There may not be a program in the country with as much anticipation heading into the 2013 season as Maryland.
Alex Crognale - Defender - Gahanna, Ohio - Gahanna Lincoln High School - Rated by CSN as the #48 recruit in the class of 2013. Played for the Columbus Crew Academy. Athletic center back.
Suli Dainkeh - Defender - Reston, Virginia - South Lakes High - Rated by CSN as the #38 recruit in the class of 2013. U.S. U-18 National Team. Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year. D.C. United Academy.
Daniel Johnson - Midfield - Duluth, Georgia - Greater Atlanta Christian School - Played club soccer in England for West Ham United. Played club soccer for Georgia United. Attacking midfielder.
Chris Odoi-A Tsem - Forward - Mitchellville, Maryland - DeMatha Catholic High School - Played club with AB Bethesda for six years. All-WCAC Player of the Year. All-County Player of the Year. Great work ethic.
Michael Sauers - Midfield - Glen Arm, Maryland - Archbishop Curley High School - NSCAA High School All-American. All-State selection. All-Metro. Soccer savvy player with great touch on the ball.
Zack Steffen - Goalkeeper - Downingtown, Pennsylvania - Dowingtown West High School - Multi-year U.S. National Team member. Rated by CSN as #10 recruit in class of 2013. Played with FC Delco.