Before playing Wisconsin to a scoreless draw on Sunday, Maryland women’s soccer saw far more of the Great Lakes region than it had originally anticipated.
Adverse weather Wednesday night delayed their flight for their Thursday match against Minnesota, and the Terps didn’t arrive in Minneapolis until around 2:30 a.m. Maryland was subsequently trounced 3-0 by the Golden Gophers in a game pushed back a day to accommodate the travel difficulties.
Then, with the Terps’ itinerary already disrupted, they were forced to take a five-hour bus ride to Madison, Wisconsin, and again arrived in the wee hours of the morning. In that contest, though, Maryland scraped out a scoreless draw against the Badgers.
When the Terps return home to face Illinois (7-5, 2-3 Big Ten) on Thursday, they won’t have to deal with the travel uncertainties they grappled with last week. For a Maryland (3-6-4, 1-3-1 Big Ten) squad that’s already seen far more success at home than on the road, returning to Ludwig Field should glean even more of a boost in performance from the prior weekend’s hectic journey.
“We’re definitely looking forward to being at home,” coach Ray Leone said. “We did ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ basically in one weekend … that’s not the way you start games.”
So far in 2018, the Terps have yet to score in true road games, and, including a 2-1 neutral-site victory over William & Mary, are just 1-4-2 away from their home turf. In contrast, Maryland holds a 2-2-2 record at home, due in part to the drastic difference in offensive play between venues.
Maryland has netted 1.67 goals per game in six games at Ludwig Field, dwarfing the .29 goals per game the Terps have scored on the road. But the goal-scoring disparity isn’t due to a lack of chances.
“At home we know the field. We’re comfortable on it, we practice on it,” forward Jarena Harmon said. “It’s easier to do plays and make your runs when you know exactly where you are on the field at all times.”
When the Terps have played at home, they’ve showcased a more connected attack. Maryland gets on the end of more through balls at home, while similar passes seem to trickle out of play harmlessly for a goal kick in away matches, as different turf requires different weights on balls.
After putting up 12 shots against Wisconsin, Maryland’s 72 shots on the road compares favorably to the 70 it has put up at home. Where the Terps’ attack diverges is in their conversion rate. Only 2.8 percent of the team’s away attempts have been converted into goals compared to 14.3 percent at home.
In Maryland’s’ most recent home stints, the Terps dropped back-to-back 2-1 overtime decisions to Nebraska and Rutgers. When they return to Ludwig Field to take on the Fighting Illini on Thursday, the Terps must tap into an offense that scored six goals in the previous three home appearances, and rebound from the one that failed to score in two straight road games last weekend.
“[Playing at home] is definitely going to be a huge factor,” goalkeeper Rachel Egyed said. “It’ll be good to get back to what we’re comfortable doing and what we know best, and where we’ve played best.”