By Emily Olsen
Shock. Defeat. Resilience. The 2014 Maryland Men’s Soccer season was cut short when the Terps lost 1-0 to UMBC in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
A team that seemed all but destined for its fourth College Cup title was left to pick up the pieces and start again.
“Our players have been highly motivated,” coach Sasho Cirovski said during a pre-season press conference. “They have worked extremely hard. They were on the field the day after our loss last year.”
Following last season’s early exit, the Terps lost six seniors and several other players, including two who chose to pursue professional opportunities—U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen went to SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga and left back Mikey Ambrose went to the USL Austin Aztex.
The big story this offseason is not what the team lost, but what they gained with the addition of 13 new players, 11 of whom are freshman.
“We also welcome the top recruiting class in the country. Preseason has gone extremely well,” Cirovski said. “We may have some growing pains but we feel very confident that when it is all said and done, by the end of the year, this group of players will once again contend for championships.”
From experience in the midfield to a fresh-faced recruiting class and a formidable schedule, WMUC Sports has your 2015 Maryland Men’s soccer breakdown preview.
Last season, Maryland won its fifth regular season conference title and its seventh post-season conference title.
The Terps have seen their fair share of challenging schedules, and this season is no exception.
“If you look at our schedule, it’s daunting,” Cirovski said. “That is the way we like it at Maryland.”
Cirovski said having the tough games early in the season allows him to assess where the team is and where improvements are needed. Junior center back, and staple in the Terps’ defense, Alex Crognale agreed with his coach.
“Playing these teams early on gives us a taste of what we are going to see later in the tournament and later in the season,” Crognale said. “It lets us know what we need to work on.”
The Terps started the season in Bloomington, Ind., at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. They came back champions with a draw against No. 4 Notre Dame and a crushing 4-0 victory over St. John’s.
In 2014, Maryland lacked a standout striker, but senior midfielder Mael Corboz led the team and league in scoring (10).
Maryland will rely on a group of newcomers to power its offense. Three D.C. United Academy standouts Jorge Calix, Daniel Reeves and Eryk Williamson join the Terps’ offense. Calix has also seen minutes for the U20 Honduras national team.
Another MLS Academy product, Philadelphia Union’s Sebastian Elney scored in the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic along with Sejdic who made his mark with not one, but two goals in Maryland’s match against St. John’s.
“It is a talented group. There is a reason why this group was rated so highly,” Cirovski said. “It is going to be our job to make sure we integrate them properly and put them in the right places.”
The midfield lost great strength when Dan Metzger graduated, but Corboz said he has faith in the new set of players to help command Maryland’s strength in the middle of the field.
“I don’t think our midfield will be any worse off from last year. If anything, we will take a step up,” Corboz said. “We have some freshmen that can step in and play right away, and we have some transfers that can do the same.”
Whether starting all freshmen, inserting transfer Cody Albrecht or trusting the experience, the midfield is Maryland’s deepest position.
“We can start a freshman group that could be as good as the group we had last year,” Cirovski said. “We have some depth. We are going to figure out some things as the season progresses, but for sure the two key guys in our midfield are going to be Mael and Tsubasa [Endoh].”
Last year, the common starting lineup included Jereme Raley, Mikey Ambrose and U23 College Identification call-ups Chris Odoi-Atsem and Crognale.
With the loss of senior Raley and then-junior Ambrose, Cirovski has turned to transfer student Ivan Magalhaes from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and freshman standout Diego Silva to fill in the gaps.
“Suli Dainkeh did very well last spring at left back. We have got Andrew Samuels who has also shown extremely well at left back,” Cirovski said, “But Diego Silva, right now, is ahead of both of them at the left back position. He’s a nice combination of a little Mikey Ambrose, a little Taylor Kemp, with his own little Argentinian taste.”
“I hope he’s good,” D.C. United defender Taylor Kemp said after hearing Cirovski’s comments about the freshman.
Kemp, who played for Maryland from 2009-2012, praised the way Cirovski prepares his players for the pros.
“I think the biggest thing he brings to the table is getting your mentality right,” Kemp said. “A lot of good players go through Maryland. He puts you through the type of environment that you are going to see when you go to the pros.”
Maryland suffered a huge loss last year with the transfer of former goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
“Cody Niedermeier has been one of the great servants of our program, but unfortunately has had two tough season-ending injuries of his of his first three years,” Cirovski said. ‘He had a really good spring for us and continued with a good summer and very strong in preseason and Dayne St. Clair, an extremely talented goalkeeper from Canada.”
Niedermeier started in goal on Friday against Notre Dame, and St. Clair started on Sunday against St. John’s.
“The goalkeeper position is not locked down,” Cirovski said. “We have two talented players in goal and we will see how well that translates.”
Despite not playing, Niedermeier remained with the team through his recovery.
“Cody is an extremely loyal person and loves serving others,” Cirovski praised. “I think if you asked our entire team who is the one guy you guys go to for something, Cody would probably be on the top of the list for everyone. That translates on the team too. He is highly respected. He speaks well he communicates well. He is a courageous tough kid.”
“The expectation is to be the last team standing both in the Big Ten and nationally,” Cirovski said. “That is the Maryland soccer expectation.”
Don’t miss a single minute of Maryland Men’s Soccer this season with WMUC Sports.
Tune in Thursday at 5 p.m. as WMUC Sports broadcasts live from Ludwig Field for a meet-and-greet and exclusive interviews with players and coaches. Listen Friday for WMUC Sports coverage of the Terps’ home opener against No. 1 UCLA.