The Maryland men’s soccer team has used a 6-2-5 overall record and a 4-0-3 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference to earn the No. 4 ranking in the National Soccer Coaches of America Association poll. But the healthy record masked an uncharacteristic start for the team.
The Terps opened the season with one win, two losses and two ties, marking the program’s worst start since the 1993 squad went 1-4-0. The slow opening, however, did not concern coach Sasho Cirovski.
“I was not surprised at our slow start, particularly out west,” he said Thursday. “The loss to VCU [3-2 on Sept. 8] is one that still burns because we had a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes to go at home. But those games have made us better. This is why I schedule tough, out-of-town games. Those are great learning opportunities, and I like to front-load those game because a loss at the beginning of the year is more forgiving, and they’re better teaching tools. In both of our championship years, we’ve lost a few games earlier in the year. And in both of those years, we went out west on opening weekend and we got better. My goal is to have us playing our best soccer late in the year, not at the beginning. So I think we’re on the right path.”
That loss to Virginia Commonwealth is the last time Maryland suffered a setback. Since then, the team has gone 5-0-4.
Cirovski credits a veteran-laden squad adding first-year starters in freshman defender Alex Crognale, freshman midfielder Michael Sauers and sophomore midfielder Tsubasa Endoh.
“I think we’ve gotten a little better defensively,” Cirovski said. “And I think the relationships on the field have gotten stronger. We’ve got a few players that are new in the back, a few players that are new in the midfield and then obviously a freshman goalkeeper. So I think the relationships have become stronger as some of the young players got a little bit of a wake-up call in terms of the quality and speed of the college game and have adjusted very well.”
Thanks to the unbeaten streak, the Terps are in a three-way tie atop the ACC with No. 2 Notre Dame (7-0-4, 4-0-3) and No. 15 Wake Forest (6-2-4, 4-0-3). They can break the deadlock by defeating the Demon Deacons on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Ludwig Field in College Park.
“I think this is one of the marquee matchups of the year because both ourselves and Wake have been two of the premier teams in the ACC in the past decade,” Cirovski said. “So it’s always been a great game and a very important game in terms of the standings.”