COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Maryland men’s soccer team will rely on a solid group of seasoned veterans as it embarks on its inaugural season in the Big Ten in 2014.
Despite losing key attacking players Patrick Mullins and Schillo Tshuma to the Major League Soccer ranks, the Terps return nine starters, including All-ACC honorees Dan Metzger, Mikey Ambrose, Michael Sauers and Zack Steffen. After bowing out in the national semifinals in 2012 and the national championship game in 2013, the Terps will look to be the last team smiling in 2014.
“We had a great spring. Not only did we work hard and have a very good spring here in Maryland, we had a great trip to England where we played developmental teams from Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace,” head coach Sasho Cirovski, who is entering his 22nd season at Maryland said. “It was the trip of a lifetime and I thought it was very beneficial for us on a lot of different levels.”
Mullins, a two-time MAC Hermann Trophy winner, and Tshuma accounted for 25 of Maryland’s 53 goals last season but the cupboard is far from bare. Junior David Kabelik and freshman George Campbell are the early favorites to carry the scoring load but keep a look out for junior Ryan Reid, freshmen Eric Carbajal and Jeroen Meefout, and redshirt freshman Emmanual Korvah as well. Sauers and Alex Shinsky could also see time up-top.
“We have some challenges in replacing some great goal scorers this season but we have some terrific competition for playing time all over the field and particularly up-front,” Cirovski said. “George and David will play significant roles and have both earned the right to start against Louisville but I think you are going to see quite a bit of rotation with our forwards, with three, four or five players seeing action up there in the beginning of the season.”
The Terps return a wealth of experience and talent in the midfield, highlighted by MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List honoree Dan Metzger.
“Dan, along with Patrick Mullins, was our most significant player and was our anchor as a defensive midfielder last season,” Cirovski said. “He’s being asked to be more of a leader and I think he’s stepped tremendously in that role. He got called into the U.S. Olympic team pool this summer and played against the Bahamas and did a great job.”
Maryland also boasts key returners Shinsky, Tsubasa Endoh, Sauers, Eticha, and Daniel Johnson. Mael Corboz, a transfer from Rutgers, will play a pivotal role and newcomer Jake Areman is also a welcomed addition to the midfield.
“I’m not sure there’s a better midfield that we will see all year,” Cirovski said. “Alex has also been named a captain. He really emerged last year for us and he’s finally had a run of good health. He’s inspirational and he wants to win so badly,” Cirovski said. “Mael is an extremely bright young man not only academically but is also an intelligent soccer player. He’s already emerging as a key vocal leader.
“Tsubasa is a guy who makes things happen. He’s an engine and he can run all day. Michael is a starter on this team both as a midfielder and as a forward who may not necessarily start games but will certainly play a key role. Mikias saw a lot of action last season. Daniel is full of creativity. Jake is an unsung recruit but is a terrific player with great feet and good athleticism and is going play a nice role for us as well.”
While the defense was a bit of a question mark in the beginning of last season, it is an area of strength for the Terps in 2014 with all four starters returning, including redshirt senior Jereme Raley, junior Mikey Ambrose and sophomores Chris Odoi-Atsem and Suli Dainkeh.
“We are happy to have a veteran presence with Jereme and Mikey returning in the back line and we feel like this year we are further ahead in terms of our depth defensively,” Cirovski said. “Chris earned a call-up this season with the U.S. U-20 team and really showed well where I think he is very much in the mix of potentially making that team. We have a lot of competition in the backline and Suli and Alex Crognale have certainly raised their games. Dakota Edwards is also healthy now and will challenge for time at center back.”
Senior Kyle Roach and freshman Christoffer Wallander-Ianev will also compete for action defensively.
Steffen will lead the Terps in front of the net and will be called on to elevate his game as a leader as he enters his sophomore campaign. He will be backed up by veteran Jordan Tatum. Cody Niedermeier suffered a knee injury during the summer and will be sidelined for the 2014 season.
“Zack is an exceptional goalkeeper with outstanding organizational skills. There is no doubt he is going to play a critical role for us this season,” Cirovski said. “We have a ton of confidence in our goalkeeping corps. Jordan is a terrific keeper as well.”
Ludwig Field will play host to 12 home games this season, including conference tilts versus Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State. Terp Nation will also reap the benefits of the Big Ten Network as a league-high four matches will be televised nationally, including road contests at Northwestern and Indiana.
“I’ve purposely scheduled our first six games against tough NCAA tournament teams, with two of them coming from the Big Ten,” Cirovski said. “We are going to have some tough moments in those games but after those six games you are going to see a really tough Maryland team going through the next 12 games of the season.”
Maryland kicks off the 2014 campaign at No. 14 Louisville Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPN3.