By the time the Maryland men’s soccer team’s 2017 season came crashing to an end, coach Sasho Cirovski knew the Terps weren’t the high-scoring squad he’d led in previous campaigns.
And with three of that group’s top four scorers turning pro over the offseason, it will be a surprise if the Terps attack can return to its former heights in 2018.
If they do so, it will be thanks to a new formation and an offseason trip to England. But after a shutout by No. 24 Washington in the season opener, it’s clear that the group isn’t yet where it needs to be.
“The England trip is really the point where things started to come together and we saw some very good performances,” Cirovski said. “That has carried over a little bit throughout the preseason, but obviously we ran into a really good team in Washington.”
The Terps utilized a 4-4-2 for most of last season, but against the Huskies, Cirovski used three forwards — DJ Reeves, Eric Matzelevich and Paul Bin — and dropped usual-striker Sebastian Elney into more of a midfield role.
Those players combined for just two shots in the first half against the Huskies. Neither were on target.
Midfielder Amar Sejdic said the team needed time to adjust to Washington’s defensive approach.
“We weren’t expecting Washington to sit back as far,” Sejdic said. “We were missing that link behind their defensive midfield, and it came late in the game where we tried to sort that out.”
Facing a two-goal deficit in the second half, the Terps pushed forward and ended with a 12-11 advantage in shots. But they still failed to find the back of the net, continuing their scoring slump from last season. Dating back to mid-2017, the team now has just two goals in its past seven games.
The Terps were confident they could put the drought behind them after their wins overseas. They experimented with various formations during the preseason and had success, and Cirovski said he will likely continue to change tactics going forward.
After Friday, it’s clear that the team — now without many of the faces who powered it as one of the premier attacking programs in college soccer — needs more time to work through a new attacking strategy.
“We’re still looking at that to see if that’s the … best thing for our team,” Cirovski said. “I have confidence in our guys a lot. They’ve done a great job to really reset how we want to play. It wasn’t perfect on Friday. Hopefully it will be a lot better this Friday.”