2019 Big East Men’s Soccer Tournament Quarterfinals
#3 Providence Friars (12-5-0; 6-3-0 Big East) vs #6 Marquette Golden Eagles (8-8-1, 4-5-0 Big East)
Date: Saturday, November 9, 2019
Time: 11am Central
Location: Chapey Field, Providence, RI
Streaming: The Big East Digital Network on Caffeine.tv and the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
All-Time Series: Providence leads, 9-4-2
Regular Season Meeting: Providence won, 2-0
It took a hot minute and more than a little bit of a surprise amount of help, but your Marquette Golden Eagles men’s soccer team is back in the Big East tournament for the second straight season. You can read the timeline of exactly what happened when to get the idea as to how twisty the path was on the final match day of the regular season to put the Golden Eagles into the field, but suffice it to say: it was a lot. Quite honestly, it was very rude of Seton Hall to beat Marquette in overtime in the penultimate regular season match and then cough up their tournament berth to the Golden Eagles. Could have just rolled over and handed to them as a gift if that was what was going to happen anyway.
It’s been an up and down and left and right and sideways season for the Golden Eagles. They’ve never done anything more than two matches in a row: Two wins, two losses, maybe a draw, but nothing ever longer than a pair. They’ve had some very nice looking overall play followed up by narrow losses or even straight up shellings. 21 different men have been a part of the starting eleven for head coach Louis Bennett at some point this year. In fact, AJ Franklin is the only guy who has gotten out onto the pitch but not ended up in the starting lineup.
Resiliency seems to be the word of the season when Bennett talks about his team. Whether it’s within the context of a match or the length and breadth of the season, it seems to fit. To keep fighting through to end up doing enough to land at .500 on the year and into the league’s postseason for a second straight season takes resilience, that’s for sure.
Providence comes into this match as the #3 seed in the Big East tournament. They landed on 18 points in league play this year and were alone at that number. They didn’t have to get to hosting a quarterfinal match by way of tiebreaker, and even though they beat second place St. John’s in the regular season finale, they didn’t have a shot at getting through to a bye into the semifinals. They’ve won four straight matches after that 2-0 home win over St. John’s on Wednesday, but weirdly, the result that snaps that streak moving backwards is a 2-0 loss to the DePaul team 1) that did not qualify for the conference tournament and 2) that Marquette just beat to make sure that they got into the field. That’s a weird one, but that’s how soccer results go sometimes, I suppose.
Speaking of results, we can’t really tell anything from how Saturday’s match will go, because the regular season meeting between Marquette and Providence was anything but regular. Officially the Friars got the 2-0 win in Rhode Island back on October 12th, but the methodology is what gives us pause. Manuel Cukaj took a red card for denial of a goal scoring opportunity in the 10th minute, sending MU to just 10 men for the remaining 80 minutes. At the time of the card, Providence had snagged two corner kicks already and neither team had officially gotten a shot off. After that point, the Friars outshot Marquette 25-2, including 9-0 in the 35 minutes immediately following Cukaj’s removal from the match and 16-2 after halftime.
That’s pretty much a “throw it in the bin” kind of result, unless you want to be impressed that Marquette only allowed two goals. Keeper Cedrik Stern made nine saves in the match for MU, so it clearly could have been much worse.
As was the case back in mid-October, there’s reason to believe that this will be an up and down match. Providence and Marquette are both averaging more than 14 shots per game, ranking them #2 and #3 respectively in shots per game in the Big East. A 2-1 result is not unlikely, as both teams are averaging a goal and a half per match or more.
However, the big question to unlock for the day will be whether or not Marquette can unlock the Providence defense. Marquette allows nearly as many shots as they take on the year, while the Friars are allowing fewer than six shots per match. They have a +11 shot differential on a per match basis, so finding a way through the back line one way or another will be an effort. With that said, Austin Aviza is allowing 0.90 goals per 90 minutes while facing that few shots on the year. PC may be prone to costly mistakes if they’re letting in a goal per six shots.
Paulo Lima has taken control of the Providence leaderboard this season with six goals on the year. The Portugese sophomore has an assist as well to move him to 13 points on the year, but that’s only second best on the team. With four goals and a team high six assists on the year, Joao Serrano has 14 points to lead the Friars and tie for the 10th most in the Big East. Eight different men have at least two goals this year, and seven have at least three assists. The dynamic abilities of the Friar offense will be something that will keep Marquette on their toes all match long.
The winner of this one will advance to face #2 seed St. John’s in the Big East semifinals on Wednesday, November 13th. I think it’s safe to say that the Johnnies are hoping it will be Marquette, given their results against the two sides this season.