By: Shourjya Mookerjee
On Oct. 13, the Maryland men’s soccer team was ranked No. 3 in the nation. The Terps had just beaten Big Ten rival Wisconsin in a thrilling 5-4 affair, and were still undefeated atop the conference standings.
Maryland went on to lose its next five games, all on its home turf at Ludwig Field, and no one had a strong explanation for the debacle. Eventually, the team crashed out of both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, finishing the season with a 10-5-4 record.
This past week, breakout star Eryk Williamson decided to forego his senior season at Maryland and declare for the professional draft. This news, coupled with the fact that senior staples George Campbell and Jake Rozhansky will be graduating before the start of the 2018 season, is pretty devastating for the team’s immediate future. However, there is hope.
Although the Terps gave up close to two goals a game, the new backline that was debuted this year showed a bit of resolve, and that bodes well for the future. Dayne St. Clair, the Canadian goalkeeper that filled Cody Niedermeier’s shoes between the sticks, single-handedly kept Maryland in the game against a tough Indiana Hoosiers offense early in the season.
The center-back pairing of sophomores Donovan Pines and German newcomer Johannes Bergmann also showed promise early, even if they faltered in the latter half of the matches. After losing both starters, Alex Crognale and Suli Dainkeh, last season, it seemed like Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski would be in for some trouble.
However, Pines shone thanks to a smattering of starts that were given to him during the 2016 season, and Bergmann seemed to fit in with the system already in place. Both center-backs are comfortable with the ball at their feet, and have shown that they can dribble out of tough situations to start the ensuing counter-attack.
Additionally, Freshman defender Ben Di Rosa was awarded a fair share of minutes this season, slotting in for the two starting fullbacks from time to time. Since both will be graduating this year, getting Di Rosa that level of experience under his belt was extremely important for next season.
On the offensive end, the Terps will seemingly return D.J. Reeves, who went from a perennial super-sub to a starter this season, and Sebastian Elney, another name always in the starting lineup. If either of them can put in the types of performances we’ve seen from them in the past, then Maryland’s offense shouldn’t have too many issues.
Gordon Wild, who had a disappointing year following his 17-goal season in 2016, with only five goals, is also looking to pursue a professional career either here or overseas, according to the Washington Post’s Steven Goff. It remains to be seen if Wild will return to College Park or not, time will tell.
While it does hurt to lose both Rozhansky and Williamson, creative midfielder Amar Sejdic and freshman Eric Matzelevich should both see more responsibilities in 2018. Sejdic was already the go-to maestro in the middle of the park, but Matzelevich’s shifty off-ball movement will definitely bring more excitement from the starting kick-off.
Even though this season did not end the way it was supposed to, Cirovski’s complete rebuild of the program doesn’t need to start just yet. There are certainly enough pieces remaining to have a successful campaign in 2018. Ultimately, it’ll come down to how they’re used.