I think the question in front of head coach Louis Bennett is, at this point, whether or not to worry about the goals.
In their season opener against a Kentucky team favored to win Conference USA for a second straight season, Marquette gave up four goals, including three in the last three minutes of each half. All three of those markers were either scored or assisted on by Napo Matsoso, the C-USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. In other words: a very good player on a very good team did a number on the incredibly inexperienced Marquette defense, but the damage was limited to a very small section of the game.
So, do you worry about it or not?
I think you chalk it up to playing a quality opponent with a talented offensive player, but focus on the lapses that led to the late goals. For the most part of the first 42 minutes of the game, MU looked like they were going to at least hang with the Wildcats. Throw out the final three minutes of each half, and you have the Golden Eagles playing a tightly contested 1-0 game against a team that has been in the NCAA tournament each of the past two seasons.
It’s possible that this squad isn’t that far from coming together as a cohesive unit. It’s also possible that they have major flaws that can’t be ignored. It’s only been 90 minutes though, and I don’t think we have anything close to enough information to lean one way or the other.
Marquette will see one notable lineup change from Friday night against the Huskies, and maybe a second. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Mac Wheeler will take the reins from sophomore Luis Barraza, who played the full 90 against the Wildcats. It’s a rotational decision by head coach Louis Bennett, not a reflection of the four goals given up by Barraza. Marquette may also be looking at a new starting defensive midfielder, as Ruben Sanchez left the game in the second half after being unable to continue following a hard tackle. He left the pitch with the assistance of two trainers, but was gingerly putting weight on both legs. If it’s a minor injury, it would likely make sense for Sanchez to skip Monday night’s contest with another Friday/Monday pairing coming up next weekend.
Match #2: vs Northern Illinois (0-0-1)
This will be the 27th meeting between the two squads, and the third straight season that they’ve met. Marquette holds a 14-10-2 advantage on the Huskies, including wins in eight of the last 10 encounters, although Northern Illinois won the 2015 match in overtime in Milwaukee.
NIU got off to a quiet start to their season on Friday night. They made the four hour trip south to Edwardville to face SIUE and came away with a 1-1 draw. Sophomore Max Voss scored in the 17th minute for the Huskies, but they had to take a draw after conceding a penalty kick goal in the 57th minute. That was the first of four straight road contests to open the season for NIU, as they’ll head out to Maryland for matches against Navy and UMBC over Labor Day weekend.
Northern Illinois was picked to finish sixth in the six team Mid-American Conference this season, although there is a certain amount of weirdness to the voting process. I don’t really know how you can have six teams in your league and have someone end up with two points. You’d think that you have to get either five or six points, one point for each last place vote, if you’re the consensus last place team, depending on whether or not coaches are allowed to vote for their own teams. Yet there’s NIU with two points, at least according to the MAC.