The #4 Terps will kick off the 2011 soccer season Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. in the ACC/BIG EAST Challenge, taking on an unranked but talented St. John’s team.
The Red Storm, who finished third within their division with a record of 10-6-2(4-3-2 Big East) last season, return 16 scholarship players along with six starters. They are essentially a mirror team of the Terrapins in that they return a few key pieces that need to be integrated with fresh faces.
St. John’s returns senior Walter Hines (three goals, two assists) at an inexperienced forward position, joining junior Andres Vargas and four freshman. This is a good matchup for the Terps’ defense to begin the season, where they may be able to gain some confidence moving forward. With a front line of All-ACC Casey Townsend and reigning conference rookie of the year Patrick Mullins along side a group of experienced players backing them up, Maryland holds the advantage on offense.
The Storm’s defense will be tough to crack after posting ten shutouts last year. The back line returns senior Conner Lade and sophomore Jamie Thomas, who played in all 18 games last year. Another aspect that will make it harder for the Terps to score will be the growth of St. John’s keeper, sophomore Rafael Diaz.
Diaz started every game as a redshirt freshman, tallying a 0.84 goals against average and earning Big East All-Rookie honors. To think Diaz performed so well as freshman and now has a year under his belt is a little scary but I am more than confident that Townsend and co. can crack him.
St. Johns will be entering the Challenge with a spring in their step after closing out their “preseason” with a 0-0 draw against Providence and a 2-0 win over Colgate. Maryland on the other hand will not, after losing to 1-0 to the Hoyas at Ludwig Field Saturday evening. It was another sloppy game, with the attack being stifled by lackluster passing.
But in the end, scrimmages don’t count and this one will.
When the Terps take the field Friday night, all the expectations and pressures that come from bearing the Maryland name will be in full force. The 2011 squad will need to take note of how the past great Maryland teams overcame them: win.
Time: 8 p.m
Location: Maryland Soccerplex (Germantown, MD)
Opponent’s Record: 0-0
Media: Listen Live @ http://www.wmucsports.com/
Prediction: I’m still bitter over Maryland’s 3-2 loss to Michigan in last year’s season opener, and I’m sure the team is as well. This is why I think Maryland will get it done 3-1 despite the questions circling the team. Patrick Mullins scores along with Townsend and Sunny Jane.