After dragging a near-miracle scoreless draw out of Georgetown, thanks to being down to 10 men for nearly an hour, Marquette Golden Eagles men’s soccer let a 1-0 loss slip past them last week Saturday. I literally mean slip past them, as Providence scored with just 16 seconds remaining in regulation.
As a result, as we hit the exact midway point of Big East action, Marquette (1-2-1) finds themselves in a three-way tie for sixth place in the Big East with four points. That’s not terrible, but the fact that only the top six teams in the league qualify for the conference tournament makes that even worse. Right now, with a loss to Seton Hall (also with four points) already on the board, MU is looking shaky in terms of tiebreakers.
Here’s the good news, though: There’s a three-way tie in the league for third at seven points. One of the team in that tie? Saturday’s opponent, the Red Storm of St. John’s. Marquette might not be able to control what happens to Georgetown or Xavier, but they’ve been presented the chance to hold one of the teams in front of them steady while pulling even with them. That’s a big deal in terms of the league standings, especially with a match against #12 Creighton looming in 10 days.
It seems maybe the defense has gotten things shaken out given how they went against Georgetown and almost all of regulation against Providence. Maybe they’ll struggle a little bit with Steffen Bohm sidelined due to a second yellow card that was incurred after PC’s goal last match, but perhaps Louis Bennett’s system will prevail regardless of the cast of characters. What they need to figure out, though, is the offense. Marquette hasn’t thrown one into the net since Patrick Seagrist’s late marker against UWM, and that was five matches ago. Lukas Sunesson and friends are going to need to find a way to score more than a handful of goals over the next five matches if Marquette wants to make their way back to the postseason.
One thing at a time, though, and that means finding a way to score against the Johnnies, and that has not been an easy task over the past several years....
Big East Match #5: vs St. John’s Red Storm (6-5-1, 2-1-1 Big East)
Marquette is 3-2-3 all-time against St. John’s. The divisional play format in the previous incarnation of the Big East prevented the two teams from meeting more than that, and the two had never played before Marquette joined the league. The losses came in the first two meetings, leaving MU at 3-0-3 from 2010 onwards and 2-0-3 since this became a yearly encounter in 2013. Connor Alba’s golden goal in double overtime last season marked the first goal in the series since 2014. To put it another way, the two teams haven’t scored a goal with the clock running afterwards since C. Nortey tacked on with three seconds remaining in 2014, and that was over 329 minutes of action ago.
St. John’s is coming into Milwaukee off of two consecutive home losses, one in league play, one out of it. You can’t really fault them for falling to Creighton, as the Jays were ranked #8 in the country at the time. However, the match was scoreless at halftime, and the Red Storm did strike first in the second half before losing 3-1. That’s not great. This past Tuesday night gave them a 1-0 overtime loss to Princeton, as it took the Tigers just 114 extra seconds to get the game winner. Princeton outshot SJU 19-5 in that one, so it really was just a matter of time before the Ivy Leaguers battered the walls down.
The Red Storm have 14 goals in their 12 matches so far this season, which sends warning flags to me that we’re headed directly for another scoreless draw between these two sides. The fact that they’ve only allowed 12 kind of helps, and remember: three of those were from Creighton alone. I presume that Lenny Wilson will get the start in net on Saturday night, as he’s started every Big East match this season. He’s got a goals-against average of 0.95 and he stops 79% of shots on net. However, Tyron Matuta has started in SJU’s last three non-conference matches, including against Princeton, so I suppose it’s possible that we’ll see him. His stats are similar to Wilson (1.00 GAA, 77% Save %), but he’s played about 210 fewer minutes.
In terms of the offensive end, Matt Forster and Skage Simonsen will be the two men for Marquette’s defense to focus on here. Forster, a midfielder from England, has found the back of the net five times this season, although he didn’t play against Princeton. Simonsen is a freshman from Norway, and he already has four goals to his name. The two men have combined for seven of the 18 assists that the Red Storm have tallied this year, so they’re more than just goal scorers for head coach Dr. David Masur.