Coach Sasho Cirovski’s Terps were humbled.
Shut out 1-0 by Ohio State in their spring 2021 home opener, Cirovski called Maryland men’s soccer’s performance against the Buckeyes their “worst performance of the season.” That loss would set up a season plagued by injuries as the Terps finished 4-5-2.
But now, the Terps find themselves in a drastically different position.
At 6-1, having rolled through most of their nonconference schedule and rival Michigan, Maryland has a chance to return the favor to the Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio.
“They had our number last year,” midfielder Malcolm Johnston said. “I feel like it was one of our worst performances of the year.”
It won’t be easy. Ohio State managed to upset then-ranked No. 7 Akron on Sept. 15 — an unexpected high after starting 1-3-1 on the season. They’ll also have to bring down the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week in goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin.
“Keagan was fantastic. In those 1-0 games against the number [seven] team in the country … you need to grind those out and then you need that save by your keeper,” Ohio State Coach Brian Maisonneuve said. “I thought he managed the game really well.”
McLaughlin put up a good performance against the Zips, nabbing four saves and earning a clean sheet. He also added another save and another shutout win against their subsequent opponent in Cleveland State.
With the Buckeyes and their goalkeeper entering strong, Maryland will need to find a way to knock them down a peg.
Niklas Neumann likely will take the goal Friday in his usual spot in the rotation while Jamie Lowell recovers from injury, and the opportunity will likely come against a lackluster scoring offense that ranks sixth in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes’ offense will be secondary as the game likely comes down to whether the Terps can to infiltrate Ohio State’s box and gain quality scoring opportunities — something they weren’t able to do in their sole loss of the season against Georgetown.
While Maryland did score a pair of goals against High Point, one was an own goal, and another scored due to a favorable bounce to Justin Gielen. The Terps managed to take 14 shots but only found the one goal, continuing their issues with finishing this season.
“I think we got a little static and … took them a little lightly,” forward Hunter George said. “Our goal was even a little bit lucky — I think we need to switch the point of attack a little bit more.”
Overall, Maryland has struggled recently on the road, earning a 2-4 record since the beginning of the 2021 spring season. In contrast, they’ve been undefeated at home since losing to the Buckeyes.
The Terps will be able to make amends Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in their first conference game on the road. This Ohio State matchup will kick off a slate of four straight conference games for Maryland in one of its more crucial stretches of the season.
“There’s absolutely not any extra motivation,” Cirovski said. “There’s plenty of inspiration for every Big Ten opponent, so we pride ourselves in always respecting our opponent and Ohio State has earned our respect.”