After posting the highest winning percentage in the country a year ago, the Maryland men’s soccer team is hoping a stellar group of returnees coupled with good young talent will land the Terrapins back in the College Cup in 2013.
Maryland is set to play its final season in the Atlantic Coast Conference before moving to the Big Ten in the fall of 2014. The ACC will have a new look in 2013 as the league welcomes Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to an already very competitive conference.
“We are really looking forward to a great challenge in the ACC with the addition of three quality teams,” head coach Sasho Cirovski, who is entering his 21st season at Maryland, said. “It looks to be one of the most competitive seasons in ACC history with only eight teams qualifying for the tournament.”
Headlining all returners is 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy winner Patrick Mullins. Only the second player at Maryland to win college soccer’s top individual award, the senior is hungry for a national title after forgoing the professional ranks to return to College Park for his final season.
The Terps will benefit from having their potent scoring duo of Mullins and sophomore Schillo Tshuma up top for the second straight season. The pair combined for 27 goals last season, including 11 gamewinners as Maryland led the country in scoring with 2.67 goals per game.
“Patrick and Schillo comprise one of the best forward combos in college soccer,” Cirovski said. “We will look for them to build on their tremendous relationship on the field.”
Another key ingredient to last year’s offensive success returns to the pitch as senior Jake Pace is back for his fifth and final campaign. Pace tallied a career-high five goals while playing in all 24 games in his first season as a forward. David Kabelik will also play a valuable role up top. Ryan Reid is also an option at forward.
Gone from last year’s starting midfield is All-American John Stertzer, who was drafted 12th overall by Real Salt Lake in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. However, the cupboard is far from empty with returning starters Dan Metzger and Sunny Jane and spot starters Tsubasa Endoh, Jereme Raley and Mikias Eticha back this season.
Alex Shinsky is also looking for a breakout season after being fully healthy and benefiting from increased fitness for the first time in his career in College Park. Seniors Helge Leikvang and Widner Saint Cyr will add key depth and leadership as players who can play in the midfield and the defense. Both have been key contributors to the program.
“We have multiple players I consider starters and multiple players who can play different positions in the midfield,” Cirovski said. “They will all play important roles throughout the season. It is a nice luxury to have.”
With the Terps sending top defenders Taylor Kemp and London Woodberry to Major League Soccer after successful four-year careers in the backline and losing Jordan Cyrus to exhausted eligibility, Maryland will look to revamp the defense with a flurry of young talent.
Mikey Ambrose and Dakota Edwards started 22 and 23 games, respectively, for Maryland as freshmen in 2012. Watch for a myriad of newcomers including Alex Crognale, Suli Dainkeh, Chris Odoi-Atsem and Michael Sauers to compete for the vacancies.
Returners Kyle Roach, Gordon Murie, Saint Cyr and Leikvang will also look to contribute to the back, a position Cirovski has paid particular attention to this offseason.
“We have a talented freshman group coming into compete with some experienced players to hopefully establish a strong backline,” Cirovski said. “We will be tested early and we will have to show progress and toughness as the season progresses which I fully expect to happen.”
A large goalkeeping corps will give the Terps plenty of options in front of the net.
Freshman and top goalkeeping prospect Zack Steffen has won the starting job. Following Steffen is last year’s starter Keith Cardona, Jordan Tatum and Cody Niedermeier. Cardona has been out the majority of preseason with an injury, Tatum is a redshirt sophomore who saw some action early in the season in 2012 and Cody Niedermeier is a redshirt freshman who will serve his first full season with the Terps after an injury kept him on the sidelines the majority of last year.
“I feel we have four keepers who are capable of starting and contributing,” Cirovski said. “They all work extremely hard and push each other with the hope that the one who gets the opportunity to play is sharp and giving our team the best chance to win.”
With the large possibility of several freshmen contributing on the field immediately, Cirovski has praise for this leadership group and expects it to be the guiding force in 2013.
“We have a seven member senior class and key junior leaders who are made of great substance and quality on and off the field," Cirovski said. "We will have one of the great leadership groups in Maryland soccer history.”
Maryland opens the highly-anticipated 2013 season against Stanford Friday night at 10 p.m. The Terps battle California at 5:30 p.m. Sunday before returning from the West Coast for an ACC showdown with Duke on Friday, Sept. 6 at Ludwig Field.