Starting back Marquez Fernandez inching closer to returning for UMBC men's soccer

The No. 6 UMBC men’s soccer team, which is the top seed in the upcoming America East tournament, may welcome back a key member of the defense.

Starting junior back Marquez Fernandez, who has not played since injuring his knee before halftime of a 2-0 win against UMass Lowell on Nov. 2, has been trying to hasten the healing process to return to the field for the Retrievers (14-1-2 overall and 5-0-2 in the conference) when they meet No. 5 seed Albany (6-10-4, 3-3-1) in a conference tournament semifinal on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Retriever Soccer Park in Catonsville.

“He’s probably 50-50,” coach Pete Caringi Jr. said Monday afternoon of Marquez, a Baltimore native and McDonogh graduate who has scored three goals this fall. “He’s recovering quickly. He’s rehabbing. He’s running. We’ve kept him out of practice obviously. He’s got to go see the doctor tomorrow. Hopefully, the doctor will clear him and he will play on Wednesday. I’m hoping that the doctor clears him. If not, we’ll have to keep the same group we had the other day. He’s progressing well. I couldn’t say today that he’s 100 percent certain going to play, but each day, I’ve been more and more optimistic. So I’m hoping that by tomorrow, we get some good news.”

Fernandez, who sat out the team’s 1-0 win against Stony Brook in the regular-season finale on Nov. 6, was replaced by senior Travis Dennis, who lined up at left back. Junior Jordan Becker moved from left back to center back.

Becker, junior Oumar Ballo and junior Spencer Williams have started all 17 games on defense, and Fernandez had started 12. There is a certain chemistry between that foursome, but Caringi said Dennis has proven that he can fill in capably.

“I have confidence in whoever I put out there,” he said. “Obviously, we’re a better team when Marquez plays. We have a cohesive defense, and Jordan makes us a better team when he’s playing on the left side rather than the middle. I’d be lying if I said we don’t need Marquez. We do need Marquez, but if he can’t play, I’m very confident in whoever replaces him going out there and doing the job. That’s what we’ve been able to do all year. Whoever we’ve put in a position to play, they’ve responded, and to me, that’s what good teams do.”

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