When Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski posted his first starting 11 of the new season, Stefan Copetti, Colin Griffith and Kimani Stewart-Baynes all got the nod to start.
But three days later, after the Terps registered just two shots in a 1-0 loss to Missouri State, Cirovski changed things up.
He inserted Luke van Heukelum alongside Copetti and Stewart-Baynes. Griffith, Max Riley and Justin Harris made appearances as substitutes as the Terps’ attack performed admirably Sunday night against UNC Greensboro, peppering the Spartans goal with 11 shots, seven on target, in a 2-0 victory.
The attacking line consists of two freshmen, two sophomores, one senior and a graduate student. The array of talent gives Cirovski the freedom to experiment with different combinations of attackers as he tries to find one blend of players that can provide the needed spark for the Terps.
“We’re gonna rotate throughout the lineup,” Cirovski said. “That’s a little bit by design and we’ll continue to rotate.”
Copetti, Riley and Griffith combined for 10 goals last year, with Copetti leading the line with six. Joining them are freshmen Stewart-Baynes and van Heukelum.
Stewart-Baynes impressed with his club side Vaughan SC, scoring 17 goals in 14 matches at the U-19 level. Van Heukelum joins as a 2022 United Soccer Coaches All-American.
“We have a deep team, but we also have a lot of new players and we have a lot of players that I would call starters,” Cirovski said after Maryland’s win on Sunday.
In the first two matches so far, Copetti and Stewart-Baynes started wide on the left and right flanks respectively. Striker was less stable with Griffith and van Heukelum splitting time.
But Stewart-Baynes made his case to remain on the team sheet every game in the 65th minute of Sunday’s game.
When Riley couldn’t jump high enough to get on the end of a cross into the box, the ball fell to Stewart-Baynes on the left side. The freshman steadied himself in a crowd of defenders to pick out a pass to Joe Suchecki, who scored the opener and game-winner.
“I just had to use my skill,” Stewart-Baynes said. “Joe [was] wide open, so I had no options but to give him the ball.”
He paired with Copetti and van Heukelum for the tally but later teamed up with Copetti and Griffith.
Griffith’s shot was saved after coming off the bench and once again, Stewart-Baynes found the ball. He took two touches to settle himself and knocked a shot over the line to score his first collegiate goal.
The moment required resilience. As Cirovski searches for the ideal combination, forwards will sometimes be left sitting on the bench. Stewart-Baynes was one such player left in the shadows to begin Sunday’s second half. But he knew he could still make an impact as a substitute–a belief he validated.
“It was just me, mentally, just not to get down on myself and just stay locked in the moment,” the freshman said.
With Maryland just two games into its season, questions still linger as to who can lead the Terps’ attack. Cirovski’s attacking line is split with experience and youth, and both are itching to contribute to the team. The direction he leans could determine how close his team comes to meeting its goals.