- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

When the Maryland men’s soccer team opened its preseason last week, it had a decidedly new look.

Gone were striker Abe Thompson and midfielder Domenic Mediate, two dangerous creators on offense. Ian Rodway, a key connector in the midfield, and goalkeeper Noah Palmer, also had departed.

“At one point against Connecticut, it felt like we had an under-19 team there,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “I felt like a youth soccer coach.”

His sentiment is understandable, especially with 10 freshmen joining a program that has reached three consecutive final fours. Yet the Terps, who open the season tonight at Cal State Fullerton, brought back enough from last year’s 17-6-2 team to earn top-four rankings in three major preseason polls.

The return of Jason Garey, who scored 22 goals a year ago and is back after considering turning pro, is arguably the biggest reason the Terps likely will be final four contenders again. Garey had some discussions with his family and Cirovski about leaving College Park, but he ultimately returned after three NCAA tournament semifinal losses in as many seasons.

“We really wanted to finish what our class started three years ago,” said Garey, who also will take one class this semester to earn his degree in finance in 31/2 years. “We really wanted desperately to win a national championship.”

To do so, the Terps must find a complement for Garey after losing Thompson and Mediate, who combined for 20 goals and 17 assists as seniors last year. Marc Burch, a 6-foot-2 transfer from Evansville, is a top candidate for a role.

The Terps also must sort out who will replace Palmer, a four-year starter. Redshirt senior Craig Salvati will start the opener, though Cirovski remains excited about freshman Chris Seitz.

“He’s an immense talent,” Cirovski said of the high school All-American. “I said when we recruited him that he’s going to be the best we’ve ever had, and I’ll stand by that. It’s just a matter of when he’s ready to play.”

Whoever emerges at keeper will have the benefit of an impressive back line. Burly Kenney Bertz and swift Michael Dello-Russo complement each other in the middle, and Chris Lancos (10 assists in 2004) is an offensive catalyst in Cirovski’s aggressive, aesthetically appealing scheme.

That group will be the backbone of a team determined to finally deliver a national title after so many close calls.

“It’s very important to me and to the program that we crown ourselves with a national championship, but I don’t think in any way, if it never comes, will it diminish what we’ve accomplished here,” Cirovski said. “But I’m a competitive person, and I’m going to put everything I can into it to make sure one day we do hold the national championship trophy. I hope it’s very soon — I hope it’s this year.”

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