A road trip against a top 15 opponent is not really what Marquette needs on their plate right now.
After Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Saint Louis on a penalty kick in the 72nd minute, the Golden Eagles are 0-3-1 on the season. They’ve scored just three goals in four games and after the shutout last time out, they haven’t scored at all in over 150 minutes. That is definitely not the kind of perspective on the world you want to have when you set out on a road trip against a top 15 opponent.
It’s what Marquette is going to have to do, though. There are some upsides, I suppose. Even though the win-loss record isn’t in their favor, Marquette has been playing an interesting brand of football as they average more than 15 shots per game. On top of that, they’re ever so slightly outshooting their opponents on the season, 61 to 57.
The problem has been stopping the shots from going in the net. MU might have that shot advantage, but they’ve been outscored, 8-3, through four matches. I’m not pinning this on junior keeper Luis Barraza, mind you. This is more than likely the end result of the back line in front of Barraza consisting of three players who are new to the team this year, with two of them playing their first collegiate minutes. To put it another way: Freshman Brendan Skinner is tied for the team lead in minutes played at 388, while fellow freshman Manuel Cukaj is right behind him with 386. Junior transfer defender Steffen Böhm isn’t that far back at 374. There’s your three newcomer defenders right there, and yes, sophomore Patrick Seagrist is the guy tied with Skinner for the minutes lead.
Five guys playing close defense who aren’t super familiar with each other leads to miscues and relatively easy shots for the opposing offense. It happens, it’s not really anyone’s fault. But if Marquette wants to turn this around and earn a Big East tournament spot for the first time in three seasons — and conference play starts on Saturday, by the way — they’re going to need the defense to start coming together. Preferably in a hurry.
Match #5: at #11 Virginia Cavaliers (3-0-1)
Marquette is 0-2-0 all time against Virginia. I can’t tell you much about the 2-0 neutral site loss in 1981, but the 3-1 loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA tournament is pretty fresh in my mind, even four years later. See, what had happened was UVa defender Matt Brown lost his flipping mind just 57 seconds into the match and flatout dropkicked C. Nortey from behind on a breakaway. It was a clear and obvious red card for referee Edvin Jurisevic, and that meant that Virginia was going to play with only ten men for 89:03 of an NCAA tournament match.
And then the Cavaliers scored the first and second goals of the match, with the latter one coming just after halftime. The Golden Eagles would claw one back in the 53rd minute, but hand that goal right back on a penalty kick just 20 seconds later. Again, this is with Marquette having a man advantage on the pitch the whole time. It was a bad time, man.
Anyway, that was then and this is now. If you’re blocking out time on your schedule to watch this game tonight, you probably should tack on an extra half hour. Three of Virginia’s four matches this season have gone to overtime, and two of them have gone to the second session. They started out the season with a double overtime win over Villanova, and in their most recent outing, the Cavs went to a 2-2 draw with #7 Syracuse.
Virginia has spread their goal scoring out pretty well this season, with seven men contributing their 11 team goals. Edward Opoku leads the way with three goals on the season, and his two assists give him a team high eight points. Jeff Caldwell has done all of the netminding so far this season, posting a goals-against average of 1.13 and a save percentage of .750. Virginia is a really good soccer team, but it seems that if Marquette can put shots on goal against Caldwell, they’re going to get at least one to go in during Tuesday’s match.