Seitz holds the key in goal for Terps

Reigning champs have offensive holes to fill

College Soccer

August 24, 2006|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Reporter

COLLEGE PARK -- What would Chris Seitz have accomplished had he been operating at full strength as a freshman last season?

That question will never be fully answered, but the possibilities will become a bit clearer starting tomorrow night when Seitz returns to the Maryland goal as the Terps begin their bid to repeat as NCAA champions with a game against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va.

All the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Californian did in 2005 was play through an ailing right shoulder, allow a measly 0.89 goals a game, register a 13-1-2 record in 16 starts, make the All-Atlantic Coast Conference second team and bring home the defensive Most Valuable Player Award from the College Cup.

He was the first freshman goalkeeper to spark his team to the national title since 1990.

To repeat, the Terps will need another stellar effort from Seitz, particularly since the team's back line has been almost completely revamped.

"He played at 70 percent," coach Sasho Cirovski said. "And he was fabulous."

Seitz said yesterday that the shoulder - which underwent surgery in January to repair ligament damage - feels good and that he is prepared for another challenging schedule, which is, nonetheless, top-heavy with home games at Ludwig Field (13 compared with five regular-season road matches).

He will need to be physically fit, particularly early in the season, because the Terps figure to play low-scoring games. All-everything striker Jason Garey, the No. 1 goal scorer in school history, and Robbie Rogers, the third-leading scorer from 2005, are gone, and no offensive leaders have emerged.

In two preseason matches, Maryland failed to score, tying Georgetown, 0-0, and losing to national power Indiana, 1-0.

"Those were more of a learning experience," Seitz said. "Obviously, we didn't get the results we needed, but now we know what to expect. They showed we have a lot of work to do."

Cirovski is stressing that the Terps are the "reigning" champs, not the defending ones, a message to his team to focus on the current challenges, not ones that have already been met and conquered.

Maryland lost seven 2005 starters and will be younger, but perhaps just as talented. The top midfield of Maurice Edu, A.J. Godbolt and Stephen King ranks with any in the country, and Seitz has been named a preseason All-American by Soccer America, but elsewhere questions abound.

Since opponents always prepare to give their best against the reigning champions, the Terps face a rugged road and will lean on their big, athletic goalie until they get the offense on track.

"We all know his abilities," Edu said of Seitz. "He has proven himself numerous times. We all trust him. He has a championship presence."

Omar Gonzalez, a 6-5, 200-pound freshman who will form part of the back line, added that what Seitz "does really well is talk with us, communicate. I had heard of him even before I was here."

Said Cirovski: "He is very confident. This is a special guy who has taken on a large leadership role. He is going to play in some World Cups."

If the freshmen come through - and they were rated the fourth-best crop in the country - and the attack develops, the Terps should again be competing nationally. Cirovski said he will not change the team's approach and play more conservatively than normal.

"We have a certain way we want to play," he said. "We're always going to be a high-pressure, attacking team."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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