The quality of men's college soccer in the state of Maryland will be on display at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 when the UMBC Retrievers host the Maryland Terrapins at Retriever Soccer Park in Baltimore.
The last time the two teams met, UMBC came away with a 1-0 upset victory on the road in the 2014 NCAA Tournament second round.
The Terps, who entered September ranked No. 5 in the country by the United Soccer Coaches Poll, are consistently one of the top-ranked teams and were the top-seeded squad in the 2016 NCAA Tournament before a second-round loss to Providence.
UMBC is coming off a season in which it went 5-9-3, but the Retrievers played in the College Cup semifinals as recently as 2014 and won the America East Conference championship four times from 2010-2014.
"I think, really, the big winner is -- and this might sound corny -- but the big winner is the state of Maryland soccer because there are a lot of local players and people that come out," UMBC head coach Pete Caringi said. "It lets people and the media know that college soccer is really big in this town and in this state and maybe sometimes we don't get the recognition that we deserve."
For Maryland, the matchup not only showcases two competitive local teams, but it gives the Terps an opportunity to play in front of a big crowd away from College Park.
"UMBC has shown to be a top program, drawn a great fan base as well, and we're looking forward very much to coming to Baltimore and playing against a great program in what should be a fantastic night of soccer in the Baltimore area," Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said.
The in-state contest is one of 17 games each team will play in the regular season, and while not a conference game, it is certainly a matchup the UMBC squad noticed when they looked at the schedule.
"... Since I've been here, we've never played Maryland on our home field, so that's naturally exciting," UMBC senior captain Gregg Hauck (Linthicum, Md./North County) said. "We know it's going to be a good game; it's going to be entertaining. It's exciting to see it on the schedule."
Caringi still remembers the last time the two teams played at the Retrievers' home field in 2011 in front of a then-record crowd and TV audience. That day, UMBC fell to the No. 1-ranked Terps, 4-3, in double overtime.
"The last time we played them here it was probably one of the best games I've ever been involved with, and we lost," Caringi said.
Both teams are loaded with players from Maryland who grew up competing with and against each other on the soccer field. But the connections are not limited to the players, as Maryland associate head coach Brian Rowland was a four-year starter at UMBC under Caringi from 1999-2003.
"There are a couple guys that played together on [Baltimore Celtic Soccer Club], so there's always that little rivalry between your friends, so that adds excitement to it," Hauck said. "I played against a couple of the guys; I know a couple of the guys. Just knowing you're playing against friends and people you have been competing against your whole life is pretty exciting."
In its second game of the 2017 season, UMBC set an attendance record with 2,873 fans for a 3-0 victory against Howard, and the expectation is that record could be easily broken when Maryland comes to town.
"… Fans come to our games and they support us, which makes a great atmosphere," Caringi said. "As well as Maryland is doing, just to have them come here, we expect one of the biggest crowds, if not the biggest crowd we've ever had for a soccer game or maybe even a sporting event if the weather and things work out."
Photo Credit: UMBC Athletic Communications
Issue 237: September 2017