It is Big Ten Tournament time for men’s soccer and it is no surprise the games are amplifying in magnitude.
Michigan State will face Maryland on Friday and both teams would love to secure a spot in the Big Ten Championship game, set to be held on Sunday.
Although both teams are expected to make the national tournament, a win could burgeon the stock of either one. Maryland comes in favored with the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten and home-field advantage. However, the defending runner-ups know from prior engagements the strength of the East Lansing side.
Michigan State comes into the game boasting an 11-4-4 record and the No. 12 spot nationally, as voted on by the coaches. Maryland comes in one place below and with a 12-5-2 record.
Maryland, however, finished 4 four places ahead of the Spartans in the Big Ten with a 5-2-1 record, juxtaposed to the impressive 4-2-2 record tallied by MSU.
Head to Head
Michigan State had the Terrapins’ number in the most recent encounter. Earlier this year, Sparty won in College Park, MD, 1-0, with a goal from midfield stud, Jason Stacy. In the two teams’ history, Michigan State has a 5-1-1 lead in the head-to-head series and a 14-7 lead in goal differential.
Maryland’s one win was a memorable one though, as the Terps won 4-0 in 2010.
The one draw was even more memorable for those fortunate enough to witness the battle. The 1968 NCAA trophy was on the line, but neither team could find the winner and the game finished 2-2. MSU’s Frank Morant tied the game with ten minutes left in regular time, but that would be the last goal the match witnessed, as neither side managed to rustle the net despite two overtimes.
Michigan State’s superb season is the result of a stellar back five, led by the phenomenal Zach Bennett between the posts.
In front of him stands his consistent center back pairing of Ryan Keener and Zach Carroll.
Jason Stacy, meanwhile, has seven assists in 19 games and has been the playmaker in attack.
On the other side, Maryland is also led by its robust defense with Zach Steffen in the back. He has allowed .87 goals a game, but has relatively low save percentage of .65 — a testament to the great team defense the ‘Terps’ rely on. Up front, the target man is Mael Corboz, who has nine goals and three assists.
-Maryland and Michigan State were knocked out by the same squad in last year’s playoffs — the defending champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Maryland lost in the championship and had to settle for runner-up.
-Michigan State has not just one co-championship. In fact, in the year before they were equalled by Maryland, MSU had drawn St. Louis, 0-0, in 1967. Michigan State is still looking for a championship.
-The Spartans will be hoping to do a double on the Terps this weekend, with matchups in both football and soccer.
-Maryland was ranked in 2010 as having the best college soccer fans by US News.
The Spartans have been on good form after back-to-back quality wins at Indiana and Penn State, who were respectively ranked No. 2 and No. 23 at the time of encounter. Maryland has somehow topped that, with nine straight victories and their last loss at home coming in September.
The game could swing either way, but even a goal at Maryland is successful for most teams. The Spartans will hope to get possession, one goal, and hold on, limiting any chances for the Terrapins to score.
A dog fight is set to ensue in Maryland — in a match that will decide one half of the Big Ten Championship.
Isaac Constans is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports