Two of the wilder halves of the season came together on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis as Marquette men’s soccer pulled together a 2-1 victory over Butler. With the win, MU now has 13 points in the Big East table and sits in third place. They’re five points clear from seventh place DePaul with one match left to play. As a result, the Golden Eagles are guaranteed a spot in the top six in the league and have clinched their first Big East tournament berth since 2014!
Through 45 minutes, it looked like Marquette was ticketed to an easy path to that postseason appearance. While Butler outshot Marquette 9-6, it was the Golden Eagles that found the net twice. First it was Diego Nunez tipping in a ball from Connor Alba in the 30th minute, then it was Josh Coan in the 37th minute. The goal from Nunez was a bit of right place and right time, as even Nunez will admit (and does so in this clip) that he did very little other than redirect Alba’s pass into the net.
Coan’s goal was a much more pleasing sight to see, as he pulled control of a bouncing ball away from the BU defense and snapped a shot just inside the post.
That was the first half.
The second half was something completely different. Just 107 seconds into the period, Marquette keeper Luis Barraza ended up gathering up a straight red card. Here’s how the GoMarquette.com recap describes the foul:
Following a weak back pass, Barraza was unable to beat the Butler player to the ball and, as the last defender, was either forced to commit a wrap-up foul or give up an empty net goal. He chose the former and the referee issued a red card.
Alex Lehtinen beat backup keeper Cedrik Stern on the ensuing penalty kick to halve the Marquette lead, so Barraza’s on-the-fly gamble to avoid the goal ended up being fruitless. To make matters worse, Marquette then had to play the remaining 43 minutes of the match with just 10 men.
It went about as well as you would expect it to after Butler outshot Marquette in the first half. The Bulldogs amassed 11 shots in the second half following the red card against none from Marquette. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. For the entire half. Nary a shot. You can’t fault Stern for giving up the penalty kick goal seeing as the time elapsed from “Hey, Cedrik, get in there” to “Lehtinen kicks the ball” was maybe three minutes if we’re being generous. However, all due credit to the German freshman for what he did the rest of the way. He made two saves, one in the 58th minute and one in the 85th minute to preserve what was left of Marquette’s lead and send the Golden Eagles back to Milwaukee with the win.
Respect to the rest of Marquette’s defense as well, by the way. Three of Butler’s shots in the second half ended up recorded officially as “blocked,” which means a Marquette defender stuck some manner of body part in the way before the ball got to Stern. In addition to that, Marquette had to defend five corner kicks after Stern entered the match, and with just nine field players to mark 10 attackers, that could not have been a picnic on any level.
Up Next: Marquette returns home for Senior Night on Wednesday, and yes, Luis Barraza will be suspended for his own Senior Night. The Golden Eagles will be hosting DePaul and will be playing with something on the line. With 13 points, MU could finish as high as in a tie for second in the league, depending on other results, but they could just as easily finish fifth. I believe they can’t finish lower than that thanks to wins over St. John’s and Xavier. If the tiebreakers would work out, second place would mean a bye and hosting a semifinal match, a third or fourth place finish would mean hosting a quarterfinal match, and fifth place would send the Golden Eagles out on the road for their first tournament contest.