The phrase “clean sheet” has another meaning for Maryland soccer senior Chris Rindov.
While Rindov, a center back, is eager to help the Terps finish with shutouts, he also takes it upon himself to be the last person to tidy up the team’s locker room at opponents’ venues before he leaves.
It is all part of coach Sasho Cirovski’s policy leaving the visiting locker room cleaner than when they arrived. It is also part of Rindov’s DNA.
“I don’t feel comfortable walking by a piece of trash and not picking it up just because it’s as simple as putting it in the trash,” he said.
Junior back Alex Nitzl said Rindov’s example isn’t lost on his teammates.
“He does the little things right, and that’s one part of it,” Nitzl said.”
Rindov’s significance is just as pronounced on the soccer field. As the leader of the defense, he has played a role in Maryland (5-1-2 overall, 2-0-1 Big Ten Conference) surrendering only 10 goals in eight games and ranking No. 8 in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll. And with two goals of his own, he is tied for second on the team in that department.
Cirovski is effusive in his praise of Rindov.
“I can’t take him off the field,” he said. “ ... He’s incredible. He’s been just a great inspiration for our team.”
Rindov’s presence on the team almost never came to fruition. Despite a successful career that included helping the Olney Boys & Girls Club capture four consecutive Maryland state championships from 2016 to 2019, contend for two national titles and being named to the Washington Post’s All-Metro honorable mention team in his senior year at Rockville High, he drew no interest from Division I programs.
Rindov could have played for a Division III school, but was honed in on his academics.
“I always had an interest in engineering, and I knew that Maryland had a really good engineering school,” he said. “So that was kind of my initial priority when I was looking for a school.”
When Rindov informed Pete Wood, the director of coaching for the Olney Boys & Girls Club, that he planned to go to College Park, Wood asked him if he would try out for the Terps.
“He said, ‘Nah, I’m just going to play club ball,’” Wood recalled. “I was like, ‘Whoa. What a waste of talent this would be.’ So through a friend who actually knows Sasho, I said, ‘Look, there’s a kid going to Maryland, and he’s good, and he’s good enough for the team, too. Can you put him onto anybody and maybe just have a word about looking at him?’”
After talking to Wood, Cirovski asked him to send some film of Rindov. Cirovski said it didn’t take him long to like what he saw.
So Cirovski told assistant coach Jake Pace (River Hill) to invite Rindov to an on-campus summer camp for high school players. At night, campers would scrimmage against several members of the Maryland varsity team who volunteered as counselors.
“He shows up at camp, and we were like, ‘Wow, he’s pretty good,’” Cirovski said. “The next day, we offered him a spot on the team.”
Rindov acknowledged feeling surprised by the sudden offer to join as a walk-on player.
“I was a bit shocked that there was a spot open because [Cirovski] had said, ‘We just don’t know. We have to see if we can get a roster spot,’” he said. “I was like, ‘If they can get it, that would be amazing, but who knows if that was even possible?’ So I was just keeping an open mind.”
As a freshman in 2019, Rindov appeared in nine games as a defender off the bench, learning from Johannes Bergmann, an All-Big Ten first-team selection that season. Since then, Rindov has started all but one of the Terps’ past 36 games.
Nitzl, who joined the team in 2020, said he still finds it difficult to believe that Rindov was a walk-on.
“When I came here, he was on the team, and he was good,” Nitzl said. “You expect walk-ons to be like, ‘All right, they need a little bit more time.’ But he was ready when I came here, and I think it just shows that when you dedicate yourself to something and you want to achieve something, the hard work clearly pays off.”
Cirovski said in his 30 years of coaching Maryland, Rindov is the only “walk-on cold call” to make and stay with the team.
“I’ve had so many good recruiting stories of players that come here and make an impact, but this is as good as it gets because he’s a local kid who is as humble as the day is new and who comes here and when given a chance, he has made the most of it,” Cirovski said. “He’s our captain, he’s one of the top defenders in the Big Ten, and he’s a guy that can play at the next level. It’s quite remarkable what has happened.”
Rindov, who has been a partial scholarship player since the spring, said he doesn’t tease Cirovski about not recruiting him. (“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, I guess you could say,” Cirovski said with a smile.) Rindov said he still gets a kick out of entering the locker room.
“Anytime I came by here, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually here,’” he said. “From where I was a few months before I came here, it was definitely surreal, and I still caught myself looking around, going, ‘Wow, I’m still here.’ It’s crazy to be in the position that I am.”
Rindov is quick to credit Wood, his coach at the Olney Boys & Girls Club, for paving the way for him to play for the Terps. But Wood said he merely opened the door.
“The stars lined up, but most of it is his own doing,” he said. “I would imagine that once he got his opportunity, he’s that single-minded and focused that he said, ‘I’m going to get on this team. I’m not just going to sit and ride the bench for four years. I’m not going to cheerlead. I’m going to be a part of this.’ That’s what sets him apart.”
Rindov is scheduled to graduate in December with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. He has an extra year of eligibility to return to Maryland or take his chances by turning pro. Either way, Rindov said he relishes the journey he has taken.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s a bit tough to say how grateful I am. Training here every day, you get a little bit used to it, but it’s definitely a blessing.”
Friday, 7 p.m.
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