- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sasho Cirovski dreamed big when he took over Maryland’s soccer program nearly two decades ago. 

He thought the Terrapins could re-emerge as a national power; they’ve won two national titles since 2005. He believed college soccer could grow an audience and set to work on a game-of-the-week cable television package.

He wanted a raucous setting for his team’s home games and, with the help of temporary seating and the Crew of student fans, Ludwig Field was transformed into an imposing home-field advantage.

One thing remains: building a soccer-only home for the Terrapins (18-1-2), who play an NCAA tournament round-of-16 game against Coastal Carolina at 5 p.m. Sunday.

“I’ve set a goal that within five years, we’re playing in a new stadium,” Cirovski said. “If we’re not, I’m going to consider this part of my journey a massive failure. It would hurt me a lot. We’re going to do it. I don’t have any money. I’m not expecting anybody else to come through. Not the university, not the department, not the state. I’m going to put the pieces together in one way, shape or form.”

This is not a new desire for Cirovski, who since the early years of his stint at Maryland craved a soccer-specific home. The track and field program’s home rings Ludwig Field, which opened in 1995.

Grumbling about the less-than-ideal setup wasn’t going to work, so Cirovski set about offering a preview of his own vision.

“I was being recruited in what, 2000?” said former player and current Maryland assistant Michael Dello-Russo. “And at that point, he wanted a stadium of his own. He feels like he’s done everything but get that at this university, so it’s real important.”

It isn’t difficult to understand why. Once an impatient firebrand, Cirovski matured over the past 20 years, churning out plenty of victories (302-116-28 with six College Cup appearances) while raising three daughters. His ambition and single-mindedness, ever his calling cards, have not wavered.

The stadium, which he estimates will cost between $15 million and $20 million to construct, will require every bit of Cirovski’s persistence to come to fruition. He plans to dedicate his energies for much of the offseason to seek a lead gift of between $5 million and $10 million. It won’t be easy.

Little was for Cirovski, who was born in Macedonia and moved with his family to Canada as a young boy. His father died just as he was about to embark on a coaching career a quarter-century ago, and he promised his dad he “would make him proud and someday I’m going to bring honor to his name.”

“From the day I took this job, I wanted to leave a legacy here at Maryland that was going to be everlasting,” Cirovski said. “The stadium is the final piece for me. It’s probably what’s kept me at Maryland more than anything else all these years. I want to put an imprint on this campus that says, ‘Hey, I was here, and we made soccer important, and we’re going to honor the past, and we’re going to ensure the future.’”

Besides cash-strapped Maryland’s chronic financial issues (which should improve once it moves to the Big Ten in 2014), perhaps the greatest thing working against him in recent years is his own success.

The Terps are 125-12-10 at home since 2002.

It’s led to greater fan support, as Dello-Russo discovered when he returned as an assistant coach two years ago. Still, it could be even greater.

“When I saw what it was then, it was unbelievable,” Dello-Russo said. “But like he says, it’s our stage. It’s not quite our stadium. He’s made it the best stage he could possibly make it, but to really get it to what he wants and what we want, a stadium would be great.”

Cirovski proudly shows off renderings in his office of what could be (“It must happen, and it will happen,” he said) and muses about how other programs have gleaming new stadiums.

Securing one on his own, even if it means knocking on every door imaginable, is the final part of securing his dream — and his legacy at Maryland.

“I don’t think I’ll be coaching 20 more years,” Cirovski said. “You’re sort of on the other side of the mountain now. Make no mistake: My plan is to win more national championships here, and the priority is always going to be commitment to my student-athletes and make sure this program is competing for national championships. There will be no drop-off in that. This is going to juice me up to push through this project.”

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