The stakes are high as two undefeated teams face-off to start conference play. Some would say it’s a can’t-miss match.
“It’s a must see game in this area,” head coach Sasho Cirovski said. “If you are anywhere within 100 miles of the DMV area and you love soccer, you need to be at this game,”
The No. 5 Maryland Terrapins (4-0) take on the No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers (4-0) at Ludwig Field at 7 p.m. on Friday night in the Big Ten conference season opener.
Both soccer programs have rich historical successes, yet it is Indiana who boasts eight NCAA National Championships compared to Maryland’s two. However, with three straight draws, these teams could not be more closely matched.
“I think it just raises the stakes for the game, especially being our first conference game,” senior midfielder Jake Rozhansky said.
The two teams squared off to begin conference play last season as well, ranked the exact same as this year. That 1-1 result bolstered the Hoosiers all time record against Maryland to 3-2-5.
Rozhansky thinks that if “the best fans in the country are like how they always are”, the home field advantage will be a huge factor to push the result in favor of the Terps this time around.
“Last year I think we came out kind of slow,” Rozhansky said. “It was at their place, so with travel and everything we came out slow. This year it’s gonna be a Friday night and the first conference home game so we have to use the crowd to our advantage and start out fast really early.”
Indiana has not beaten the Terps at Ludwig since September 8, 2000, when they won 2-1. Senior defender Grant Lillard, who was named on the preseason MAC Hermann watchlist, will be looking to change that.
Lillard and company will be looking to exploit one of Maryland’s main weaknesses this season, which has been defending set pieces. All four goals conceded by the Terrapin defense originated off either a corner kick or free kick.
“That’s an area we need to get better at and we are still incorporating a lot of new bodies into it,” Cirovski said. “A lot of players at the back are still learning their roles and it’s an area that I know we are going to get better at, and we will have to be better at it tomorrow because Indiana is very good at set pieces.”
While the Terps were not able to get a lot out of the Cal Poly game because of the lack of pressure from the Mustangs, the team has taken aspects from the UCLA game that will make the team both stronger and tougher, Cirovski said.
“We have a way we want to play and they have a way they want to play,” Cirovski said. “It comes down to execution, attention to detail and winning key moments of the game that matter.”
A win on Friday night would be the Terps first Big Ten season opener victory since joining the conference in 2014.
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