Maryland did some things very well last year. They played well on the defensive side of the ball but the lack of offensive punch prevented them from doing some of the things that they normally do and resulted in a small margin of error. The Terps will seek to maintain the strengths and address areas of concern in 2020.
Departures and Gaps – The Terps lose center back Johannes Bergmann (2g, 2a), midfielder Eli Crognale (4g, 5a) and forward Luke Brown (1g, 1a) due to graduation. Bergmann and Crognale were team captains and 2019 All-Big Ten First Team selections. Bermann was a starter for three seasons and Crognale a starter for two seasons. Brown was a three-year starter at Hofstra before transferring to Maryland in 2020 for his senior season.
Opportunities for Improvement – Possession and pressure. Maryland is at their best when they are able to apply pressure, create turnovers, and quickly counter. Their ability to do that on a consistent basis last year, in large part due to injuries, limited their effectiveness on the offensive side of the ball and put their defense under greater pressure.
Coach’s Recruiting Class Comment – Sasho Cirovski stated, “They are all of the highest character, have an insatiable desire to excel and bring with them a soccer skill set that will allow them to succeed individually as well as add great value to our program.”
Summary – Maryland struggled at times last year against the more difficult opponents. The effort was there throughout the season but key injuries hampered their ability to settle into a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball. As a result they were unable to get on the front foot at times and apply the pressure that has been the trademark of the program under Sasho Cirovski. Regardless the Teprs still managed a solid 11-8-2 overall record with a 3-3-2 mark in Big Ten play, earned their nineteenth consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the second round of the tournament.
Forward Paul Bin who played a key role in Maryland’s attack in 2018 sustained a season ending ACL injury on the first day of preseason training and missed the entire 2019 season. Midfielder William James Herve, a starter in 2018 who added a different dimension to the Terp offense, was limited to just a few minutes of playing time in three contests last year due to a leg injury. Forward Bryan Padilla (2g, 9a), who started the 2019 season strong and looked like he might be the answer to Maryland’s attack, sustained an injury that limited his season to eight contests. All three are slated to return in 2020 which should provide a real boost to the Terp offense.
In addition, senior forward Eric Matzelevich (6g, 2a) who was Maryland’s top goal scorer last year and a 2019 All-Big Ten Second Team selection, junior forward Justin Gielen (4g, 1a) and sophomore forward Justin Harris will be back. Forward Jacen Russell-Rowe whose resume includes playing for the Canadian U-17 National Team is among the newcomers who look to be a perfect fit for Maryland’s style of play.
Sophomore midfielders Malcolm Johnson (4g, 4a), David Kovacic (3g, 1a) and David Kovacic and redshirt sophomore defensive midfielder Nick Richardson, are among returning linkmen who now have a year of experience under their belts. Johnson and Richardson were 2019 Big Ten All-Freshmen selections.
The Terps will miss the stability and experience that central defender Johannes Bergmann who was a three-year starter brought to the defense but a drop off in the level of play on defense is not likely. Junior center back Brett St. Martin (1g, 1a) returns with two seasons of starting experience under his belt along with senior right back Ben Di Rosa (1g, 2a) and senior left back Matt Di Rosa (0g, 2a). Sophomore backs Marques Antoine who saw action in seven contests last year with three starts and Chris Rindov (0g, 1a) who participated in nine contests are among other returning players who should be in the hunt for a greater role in 2020.
Sophomore Niklas Neumann, a 2019 All-Big Ten Second Team selection, returns in goal after starting in eighteen contests last year and recording a 0.90 goals against average to anchor a Terp defense that posted eleven shutouts last year.
Cirovski has a proven track record of building consistent winners. Under his guidance Maryland has had double digit wins in twenty-six of the last twenty-seven seasons, earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament twenty-four times, and won the national championship in 2005, 2008 and 2018. He will enter the 2020 campaign a couple of wins away from securing four hundred wins at Maryland. When Cirovski reaches that milestone he will be one of only six coaches who have accomplished that feat at one Division I school.
No different from other elite programs, Maryland will enter the 2020 season with their sights set on no less than winning the Big Ten Title and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Whether or not they can accomplish that hinges on their ability to up the level of their play by maintaining possession and applying pressure on the offensive side of the ball without a decline on the defensive side of the ball. Key factors include the ability of senior Paul Bin, junior William James Herve and junior Brayan Padilla who were injured last year to return to full strength in 2020, the ability of forwards Eric Matzelevich and Justin Gielen to build on the season they had last year, and the ability of others to take the next step in their playmaking ability.
Maryland will be competitive and will put in a full shift in terms of effort in 2020 but the bottom line is that improvement is required in order for the Terps to win the contests against the top level opponents that eluded them last year.
Ben Bender – Midfielder – Parkville, Maryland – Calvert Hall – Four-year starter at Calvert Hall where he scored fifteen goals his senior season and nine as a junior. 2019 Allstate All-American. Two-time All-MIAA selection. Played club for Baltimore Armour.
Jamie Lowell – Goalkeeper – Brentwood, New Hampshire – Kentridge High School and Phillips Exeter Academy – Played for Seattle Sounders Academy. Prior to that he played club for Seacoast United.
Joe Suchecki – Midfielder – New York, New York – Played for New York City FC Academy. Scored nineteen goals for the U16-17 team and four goals for the U18-19 team. Selected to the Generation Adidas Elite Soccer Program in 2017.
Jacen Russell-Rowe – Forward – Bramton, Ontario – Played for the Toronto FC Academy and the Canadian U-17 National team. Scored nineteen goals for Toronto FC U-16-17 team and forty career goals in USDDA play.