- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

The philosophy of the Maryland men’s soccer team is rooted in stifling pressure, constant attacking and the ability to turn even the smallest opening into a scoring opportunity.

In short, it’s not boring — not for players, not for fans and certainly not for opponents faced with containing an offense averaging 2.57 goals a game.

“We like to play a high-tempo game,” said Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski, whose team plays host to St. John’s in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal today at Ludwig Field. “We like to attack at all times. I think our players love our high pressure and our high persistence all over the field. It’s something I believed in from day one, and it’ll never change.”

There’s little reason to adjust anything. The Terrapins (16-5-2) have scored 59 goals this season, two shy of the program record set in 1963, and stand one victory from reaching the NCAA final four for the third straight season.

This isn’t the first high-scoring team Cirovski has fielded, but it is one of the most efficient. Maryland has scored at least two goals 14 times and has been shut out only twice, including a tie with Creighton in the NCAA round of 16. (Maryland advanced on penalty kicks.)

The Terps’ offensive core has been together for some time. Junior Jason Garey (21 goals) and senior Abe Thompson (11 goals) start at forward, while senior Domenic Mediate (nine goals) is the team’s most potent midfielder. Of the team’s top four scorers, only freshman midfielder Stephen King (seven goals) hasn’t played on a final four team yet.

“Stephen is new this year, but me, Abe and Dom have been here three years and we’ve played with each other every day, pretty much,” Garey said. “That helps a lot when you’re familiar with someone. You know where they are going to be, and they know where you are going to be. It’s a lot easier to work together.”

Though the familiarity helps, it is clear Maryland’s system is fun for players, who thrive in the up-tempo approach. The high-scoring philosophy also has helped the Terps maintain a loyal fan base that has grown considerably as the team has made consecutive College Cup appearances

“I think there’s a correlation with winning, and there’s a correlation with attractive soccer,” Cirovski said. “We’re doing both right now. This is a market where people have a lot of choices and for us to be getting two, three, four thousand on a regular basis for weekend games, that’s pretty remarkable.”

The Terps’ offense will be tested by St. John’s (12-5-4), which upended Maryland 1-0 in last year’s NCAA semifinals. The Terps routed the Red Storm 5-2 earlier this season, but St. John’s has allowed only 12 goals in 18 games since its last visit to Ludwig.

This is the third time the teams have met in the NCAA tournament since 1999, when St. John’s upset Maryland 1-0 in the first round on a counterattack goal in the 89th minute. The only goal in last year’s College Cup meeting was a Red Storm penalty kick in the 35th minute.

But if Maryland takes an early lead this time around, it’s almost unthinkable the Terps will be content to pack the back and wind time off the clock. Simply put, it’s just not Cirovski’s way.

“That’s where it comes from,” Garey said. “He recruits players that like to play attractive, attacking soccer. He makes us play that way. He’s not ever going to tell us to pack it in.”

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