Men's Soccer Match #14 Preview: At St. John's (7-6-1, 0-4-1 Big East)

Paul Dillon's feet have been a guiding force for Marquette, tallying six assists on the season. - Maggie Casey/MarquetteImages.com

Men's soccer heads to Queens and ESPN3 for a midweek match of a bit of importance.

When: Wednesday, October 23, at 6pm Central
Where: Belson Stadium in New York, NY
Audio/Visual: Because St. John's has some sort of deal worked out with ESPN, the match will be broadcast on ESPN3. Neat, huh? Live stats will be over this way.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer

Five wins, four shutouts. With four matches left in the Big East schedule, coaches might be ringing up Butler head coach Paul Snape to find out how the Bulldogs solved the riddle of the Marquette defense.

In defense of the four opponents that were shut out, all of them had mostly solved the riddle of the Marquette offense. All four shutout wins have ended in 1-0 finals, with C. Nortey providing the game winner in three of them, two in extra time.

All of this has led to Marquette moving up in the national rankings. They're ranked #24 in the country by Soccer America, #16 by the NSCAA's coaches' poll, and #14 by Top Drawer Soccer. They're also in first place in the Big East, five points clear of second place Georgetown. With a win against the Red Storm tonight and a Xavier win over Seton Hall, Marquette will clinch a slot in the Big East tournament. While SHU and Villanova are currently tied for seventh place with six points, Marquette already owns the tiebreaker over the Wildcats, so their result tonight does not impact Marquette.

Nortey is the leading scorer for Marquette with seven goals on the season, just two off the lead in the Big East. Freshman Louis Bennett II picked up his fourth goal of the season in Saturday's 1-0 win over Providence, which has him tied for ninth best in the league. Senior Paul Dillon has six assists to lead Marquette and sit in a tie for second most in the conference, while freshman Coco Navarro is right behind him with five helpers.

Keeper Charlie Lyon has been outstanding over the last seven matches, allowing only three goals. He currently has the second best goals-against average in the Big East at 0.82, although he's a long ways away from catching the top guy, Georgetown's Tomas Gomez. Lyon's stopping 80% of the shots on goal that he sees, which is a little lower than he was last season. But more importantly, Marquette's defense has been better in front of him. Lyon has 43 saves through the 13 matches of this season, well short of the 54 save pace he was on through 13 matches last year en route to 87 saves in 21 matches.

The Red Storm present an interesting puzzle to try and figure out. After starting the season as a top 25 team with a record of 5-1-0, SJU has gone 2-5-1 since then and have yet to win a game in Big East play. When they played Creighton to a scoreless draw for 108 minutes before the Jays converted a free kick, it seemed like a bad break. The Jays were a top 10 team in the country at the time. But after a 2-2 draw at DePaul, they've lost their next three conference matches, including conceding a 105th minute golden goal to Xavier on Saturday. With this match against MU and one against Georgetown at home, they'll get their chances to turn their season around and try to get a Big East and NCAA tournament slot, but right now things aren't looking good.

Rafael Diaz was the preseason Goalkeeper of the Year in the Big East, and Tim Parker was co-Defensive Player of the Year with MU's Axel Sjoberg. It's hard to statistically grade Parker, but he hasn't picked up any weekly conference honors while leading the Johnnies' field players in minutes played. Of course, it's hard to be noticed for your defense when you're not winning. Diaz has mostly lived up to his reputation. His goals-against average is 0.94, in other words, good, but not spectacular. It's hard to knock him for being middle of the pack in a 10 team league when he allows less than a goal per 90 minutes. He's only stopping 77% of the shots that are on frame, which gives him a worse ranking (6th) in that category than in GAA (4th).

Sean Sepe leads the SJU attack. The sophomore midfielder has six goals on the season, including the game winner in their non-conference match against Princeton last week Tuesday. Six goals is good enough for a tie for fifth best in the Big East so far this season, so there is a a bit of a sign of life to their offense. Sepe also has two assists, which puts him into a four way tie for first place on the team.

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