Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski said he put his team “under the gun” with an intense early-season schedule.
The Terps played three games in eight days to begin the campaign, including a trip to California and a top-15 matchup with rival UCLA.
Cirovski wasn’t always happy with his rotation, feeling as though some of his starters were playing more minutes than he preferred.
Monday, with a winless Cal Poly team visiting Ludwig Field and Maryland’s Big Ten opener against Indiana just four days away, Cirovski took the opportunity to rectify his early rotations with his most varied lineup and frequent substitutions of the season, hoping to build depth before conference play.
“That was something we’ve talked about for a while,” Cirovski said.
A season-high 17 players saw the field Monday and six regular starters set season-lows in minutes played.
Defenders George Campbell and Johannes Bergmann, who played in 95 percent of the team’s first two games, spent the first half Monday on the bench.
Two freshmen, defender Ben Di Rosa and forward Eric Matzelevich, made their first career starts. Di Rosa replaced Campbell and Matzelevich took forward Sebastian Elney’s spot.
“[We were] getting a few guys an opportunity to start the game,” Cirovski said, “so that they’re prepared as the season progresses.”
Defenders Donovan Pines and Miles Stray, who spent the first three games trading starts, were together in the starting lineup for the first time in their careers. Cirovski said he wanted to see their partnership in a regular season game after the duo gained experience together during the spring.
Coming out of intermission, however, Cirovski went back to one of his more conventional lineups, with Campbell, Bergmann and Elney beginning the second half on the field.
Campbell and Bergmann played all 45 minutes of the second half, a planned move Cirovski said was not dictated by the Terps’ slim 1-0 lead over the Mustangs.
“We just wanted to … gain some experience for some of the players early in the year against a non-conference opponent,” said the 25th-year head coach. “It was a good opportunity to do that.”
Three players made their season debuts Monday, including two playing their first minutes as Terps.
Midfielder Mike Heitzmann, who redshirted his freshman season last year, and Belmont transfer midfielder Eli Crognale both made their first Maryland appearances against the Mustangs, along with forward Paul Bin, a sophomore who played in 11 matches in 2015 but redshirted last season.
“I literally have been waiting to do this for four years, since [Crognale’s brother, Alex Crognale], has been here,” Crognale said. “It’s awesome.”
Beyond being a nice moment for a few Terps, though, the rotations were designed to prepare Maryland should injuries, like the one defender/midfielder Andrew Samuels suffered against UCLA, force younger role players into action.
“Those guys work so hard in practice, and they work hard all throughout the year,” forward/midfielder DJ Reeves said. “It’s good … for the team, knowing we can count on those guys later in the year when we’re going to need them.”