Michigan State men’s soccer will have its hands full when the defending NCAA champions, the Maryland Terrapins (6-3-1), come to East Lansing on Oct. 11. It has been somewhat of a slow start for the Spartans (2-6-2), but they will be heading into the game on five days rest, coming off a strong 2-1 victory in overtime on the road against Wisconsin on Oct. 6.
Both teams are off to different starts following successful campaigns last season, and this upcoming matchup could have been a rematch of the 2018 National Championship. The green and white ultimately had their tournament run cut short by Akron 5-1 in the semifinal, and Maryland would go on to beat the Zips 1-0 to win it all.
Michigan State lost three key players of that Final Four team to the MLS, so it’s taken a while for this year’s group to gel and find out who their go-to players are. It’s been a collective effort so far, as six different players have at least one of the team’s eight goals this season.
Players To Watch
Plagued by injuries and bad weather through ten games, look for some of the younger guys to step up for the Spartans on Friday. Guys like redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Hunter Morse and sophomore forward Farai Mutatu have gotten valuable minutes and are big contributors. Mutatu is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and leads the team in shots this season. Between the pipes, Morse has kept the team in most games and has registered a 1.14 goals against average, while also recording 49 saves this season.
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Alex Shterenberg has two goals this season and has come into his own in his second year. Senior midfielder Michael Pimlott is the lone captain on the field, as redshirt junior defender Patrick Nielsen and senior midfielder Giuseppe Barone have seen limited to no action this year with nagging injuries.
For Maryland, the offense has been led by junior forward Eric Matzelevich, who leads the team with three goals and 11 shots on goal. Senior defender Johannes Bergmann has been a pillar on the backend so far, logging 933 minutes for the Terrapins. The goalkeepers have split time, with freshman Niklas Neumann playing seven games and redshirt freshman Russell Shealy appearing in four.
A win on Friday would bode well for a Spartan team trying to salvage their season and will be a big test for the young guys as they get ready to face one of the toughest opponents of the year. Time is running out on the season, and if the green and white want to return to the big stage again in 2019, they’re going to have to show they’re capable on Friday night.