As we look back at last Friday’s loss to South Florida, it’s looking better and better. Marquette Golden Eagles men’s soccer played the Bulls relatively evenly, other than a 10th minute goal, for the first half. Once Josh Hancock picked up his second yellow and was excused for the day (as well as tonight’s home match), things got out of hand in the shot department. MU did manage a late equalizer, but couldn’t hold on for the tie.
In context, though, it’s a pretty good performance. USF played #1 Maryland pretty well in their 1-0 loss opener, and then turned around after the win against Marquette and beat #5 Louisville, 2-0.
Again: Marquette played with just 10 men for 24 minutes in the second half against a South Florida that just beat the #5 team in the country and MU was standing around with a 1-1 tie with 10 minutes to go in regulation.
Contextually: pretty good.
However, Marquette has to make that show up in their own results going forward. The Golden Eagles have, counting tonight’s match, just two more contests before Big East play begins. They’re doing that thing they do regularly where they play a Saturday league match mixed with a non-league match during the week for a the first couple of go-rounds, but those Big East contests are pretty crucial. The Golden Eagles are expected to be in the conference tournament when that rolls around in November, but they have to be able to put the points together across all nine matches. That starts a week from tonight, so whatever positives the coaching staff can pull from fending off South Florida, they need to emphasize those quickly.
As mentioned a minute ago, MU will be without defender Josh Hancock in this match as he serves a suspension for his red card against the Bulls. However, senior midfielder Luka Prpa made his 2019 debut last Friday, going for 49 minutes off the bench. While Prpa doesn’t play the same position as Hancock, having perhaps the Big East’s most dynamic midfielder back in the lineup does make everyone’s job a little easier. We’ll see if Prpa is back in the starting 11 here, or if head coach Louis Bennett elects to keep him coming off the bench for time being.
Match #4: vs Northern Illinois Huskies (0-3-1)
Marquette has an all-time record of 15-10-2 against NIU. The series has been heavily tilted towards the Golden Eagles as of late, with MU winning three of the last four and nine of the last 11 dating back to 1990. The most recent meeting was a 4-0 Marquette win at Valley Fields in 2016.
This will be Northern Illinois’ fourth match of the year against what you could call a local rival for them. They started out the year with losses against DePaul and Loyola-Chicago, and then a 1-1 draw with Green Bay. They followed that up with a loss to Dayton in their most recent match on Monday afternoon in southwest Ohio. As you can tell, it hasn’t been a joyous start to the campaign, either.
This kind of a start isn’t particularly surprising for an NIU team that was picked to finish last in the six team MAC this season. Then again, they are returning 25 of the 28 goals scored in the 2018 campaign, so that has to count for something.
Jan Maertins is currently leading Northern Illinois in the scoring department with a goal and an assist on the season. If you suddenly find yourself saying “hey, wait a minute….” go ahead and lean into that sensation. Maertins spent his freshman campaign at Marquette in 2016, scoring three goals for the Golden Eagles as they went 5-7-4 that season. In fact, Maertins first career collegiate goal came against NIU back in that 2016 match. Maertins is second on the team in shots through four matches, with Enrique Banuelos edging him out, 10-9. Banuelos doesn’t have a point yet, though, but eventually enough shots will break him through.
The goalkeeping situation is a bit of a mystery right now. Konrad Dziedzic has started the last two matches for NIU, but no one is going to jump up and down about his performance. He’s got a goals-against average of 1.35 and a save percentage of only .400 after making two saves in 200 minutes. Koninger has allowed three goals in twenty fewer minutes, giving him a goals-against average of 1.50, but he’s also stopping 57% of shots on goal. I Dziedzic started the most recent match for NIU, so I presume we’ll see him again in the Valley, but that’s not a guarantee.