Amar Sejdic’s last goal for Maryland men’s soccer was arguably his most important. In the NCAA College Cup final, with 5,000 fans in attendance, the attacking midfielder stepped up and coolly slotted a penalty into the bottom corner, sealing the national championship victory. It was a fitting end to a glittering Maryland career in which he tallied 20 goals and 14 assists. Sejdic served as the ideal playmaking “No. 10,” catalyzing Maryland’s offense. He also dictated an intelligent pressing game that triggered countless counterattack opportunities. But, when his name was called by the Montreal Impact in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, Sejdic was gone.
His departure left coach Sasho Cirovski with a problem. The captain was a vital source of goals and assists from midfield. Such difficulties were compounded by the departure of Vinicius Lansade, who could have slid into Sejdic’s role. With his options wearing thin, Cirovski had to look elsewhere.
Cirovski might have found his playmaker. In early July, the Terps announced the arrival of midfielder Luke Brown from Hofstra University. The Cambridge, England native enjoyed three productive seasons with the Pride, showing the kind of technical and goal-scoring ability that Cirovski craves. And while the rising senior isn’t a carbon copy of Sejdic, he projects to be a creative force in the final third for the Terps.
“Luke is a dynamic attacking player who is capable of creating and finishing,” Cirovski said in a statement.
Brown totaled 16 goals and eight assists across three seasons on Long Island. His last season was also his most successful as a creator, tying his career-high in assists despite missing time to injury. The attacking midfielder also showed a knack for big games, scoring twice in a slugfest at Syracuse on September 2. Brown further refined his game this summer, starring for United Soccer League Two side Lionsbridge F.C., earning Fans Player of the Year for his efforts.
While his résumé impresses, the question is that of fit rather than technical ability. He’s not a like-for-like Sejdic replacement, but could fill a similar role. Here’s a look at Brown’s strengths, and how he could benefit the Terps this year.
Arguably Brown’s most important attribute for the Terps is his vision. With the pace and trickery on the flanks provided by Paul Bin and William James Hervé, Cirovski’s “No. 10” needs to be able to feed the wingers and start counterattacks. Brown showed flashes of that quality in his time at Hofstra. At times, it appeared that he was perhaps miscast for the Pride, with his skills better suited for short, intelligent buildup rather than a thumped long ball. However, when given license to spray the ball around, he did so with aplomb. This first-time pass to switch the point of attack is ideal in Maryland’s counter-attacking setup (Brown is wearing the No. 7 shirt in the following film clips).
Such quick play, especially when the opposing defense is scrambling to get back into position, is incredibly effective for Maryland’s attack. It should prove particularly useful against offensive-minded opponents that look to press high up the pitch.
Brown is also adept at picking up the ball in the middle of the park and playing quick passes on the break. This could be a useful threat for Maryland when the long ball isn’t available.
But the Terps need to be versatile and must play against a variety of different opponents. While some familiar Big Ten sides will look to take the game to Maryland, many others will come to Ludwig Field and set up incredibly defensively. The Terps will likely have closer contests that require extra creativity in the final third to unlock an opponent. A good crosser of the ball, Brown can offer some of the requisite skills against defensive-minded opposition.
Yet Brown is not without fault with the ball at his feet. In the limited Hofstra system, he often tried to do too much, playing the speculative ball rather than the easy one. At Maryland, there’s little room for the cheap giveaways and lapses that Brown has occasionally suffered from.
Once the attacking midfielder gets on the same wavelength as his teammates, he should have many opportunities to create. Cirovski’s fluid playing style may take some adjustment for the senior, but his ability to spray the ball around, as well as a touch of flair to his passing, should make any growing pains minimal.
In a November game against Delaware, Brown collected a pass under pressure. With passing lanes to either center back cut off, he deftly feigned right before pushing the ball to his left. The move created the necessary space for an intelligent cross-field pass that triggered a Pride counterattack.
The cool-headed sequence was one of many situations in which Brown alleviated pressure with his feet. Such an ability to manufacture an opening is crucial when opponents press high up the pitch.
At Maryland, he will be expected to show similar skills on a regular basis. Sejdic served as the primary link between the attack and midfield. Teams often man-marked him, so Sejdic learned how to dribble out of tight spaces. Brown will have to do the same.
Arguably Brown’s biggest challenge in a Maryland shirt will be identifying when to dribble and when to release the ball quickly. Moving from a long ball system to one that preaches quick passing is no easy feat. Furthermore, Brown will likely see Bin and Hervé regularly switch flanks in front of him, making darting diagonal runs to get in behind the opposing defense. Rapid and efficient decision making is paramount. Regardless of the choice Brown makes, he certainly has the skill to execute an incisive pass or take on his defender.
An eye for goal
With the departure of Sejdic and forward Sebastian Elney, the Terps lost two of their top three goal scorers from the 2018 season. But Bin and Hervé can find the net. So too can strikers Eric Matzelevich and Justin Gielen. Still, the Terps have 12 goals to replace — and with a weaker defense, ideally improve on. If nothing else, that should be Brown’s biggest contribution to Maryland this year.
When deployed just behind the main striker for Hofstra, and at times for Lionsbridge, Brown loved to drift out to the left flank and cut in on his right foot and have a strike at goal.
This strategy was particularly effective when Hofstra full back Marcus Lindqvist bombed up the wing, drawing Brown’s defender away. Maryland plays in a similar style, with the duo of Matt and Ben DiRosa flying down the wings to fire crosses in. With those runs, Brown has the option to either find the open man or put a shot on net — either of which gets Maryland a look at goal.
Brown has also shown he can find the net from outside the box, and loves to shoot predominantly on his stronger right foot. It showed in a crucial September matchup against Syracuse.
And he’s constantly looking to score from distance, leading the Pride in shots despite missing six games to injury last year. However, Brown often sacrificed volume for accuracy. In tight games, with the Pride playing direct soccer, the junior occasionally shot from ambitious distances, despite having options to pass.
The next chapter
After forward Gordon Wild left to pursue professional soccer in 2017, Sejdic had to provide more goals. Now without their captain and top scorer, Maryland is in a similarly daunting situation. This year, they could look to the equally creative Brown to fill the void.
Ironically, Brown’s first goal of the 2018 season was identical to Sejdic’s last — a driven penalty into the bottom left corner. The Terps will hope it’s more than a hefty coincidence.