Men’s Soccer: Northwestern prepares for rematch against No. 2 seed Maryland in Big Ten Tournament opener

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Jack Austin/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern graduate student defender Spencer Farina dribbles up the pitch. NU faces Maryland in a rematch in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Alex Cervantes, Reporter

Northwestern men’s soccer fell 3-1 to Maryland in College Park just last month. But on Sunday, the Wildcats head back for a shot at redemption against No. 2 seed Terrapins in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

NU (6-8-2, 3-5 Big Ten) enters the contest following their 3-1 Halloween win over Michigan State. Regardless of the results from the Cats’ regular season finale, graduate student defender Spencer Farina said everyone enters the postseason on the same playing field. 

“Every game is win or go home,” Farina said. “We know we’re a good team. We know we bring a threat, and that’s what we’re focused on. We show up to College Park on Sunday and we have to play our best game.”

The Cats’ best game occurs when the team pushes forward, gets the ball into wide areas and pins opposing defenses back. That attacking threat has largely materialized following a successful switch in NU’s 2-0 Oct. 19 win against Wisconsin. The team shifted from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 formation, which provided more defensive coverage in the midfield and gave its attackers more help in the final third. Since the change, the Cats have scored five goals in the past three games. 

NU will need their attacking front to fire on all cylinders against a Terrapin (12-3-1, 5-2-1) backline that has conceded 13 goals this season, tied for the second-fewest in the conference.

Aside from junior midfielder Vicente Castro’s opening goal against the Terrapins in October, the Cats managed only three shots for the rest of the game, putting one on goal and forcing a pair of saves. In contrast, Maryland fired off 26 shots, put 10 on goal and forced graduate student goalkeeper Miha Miskovic to make seven saves. 

But Miskovic isn’t focusing on what Maryland did a month ago. Instead, he concentrates on what the team can control.

“We played (Maryland) already, so we have an idea of what to expect,” Miskovic said. “But we’ve had multiple great performances this year, with six shutouts as a team and many other good games as a backline. So it’s just about not making a lot of mistakes that can cost us goals.”

Still, the Terrapins have scored 29 goals this season, the second highest mark in the Big Ten. 

Maryland midfielder Ben Bender leads the conference with 19 points on seven goals and five assists. Alongside him, Terrapin midfielder/forward Joshua Bolma has bagged four goals and four assists. Bender, Bolma and more will test the NU backline, but Farina said it will be the simple things that get the Cats settled on Sunday.

“It’s still just a game and this game might carry a little bit more weight, but just connect your first pass, it’s that simple,” Farina said. “Once you make that first pass, that first good read, then you forget all the other nonsense and you’re locked into the game.”

 

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