Bit of a rollercoaster this season for Marquette men’s soccer, eh?
Get a header to win in overtime, go to a scoreless draw, draw level with 10 men before losing, score three goals in 32 minutes to win, let the Milwaukee Cup slip away after an early goal.
That’s the 37 word recap of the 2-2-1 season so far. Just a little bit of everything all over the place, up and down and up and down. Hopefully we get a lot more of up, up, up starting on Friday night in the Valley. Not only is that a generally good thing, but it’s also the start of Big East play.
No, don’t worry, Marquette still has three more non-conference matches to play, including finishing out the Wisconsin Division 1 soccer cycle. For whatever reason, the Big East like this “Champions League weekday/Premier League weekend” type schedule for the first few weeks of the conference slate. By the time MU wraps up non-conference action on October 8th, they’ll already be three matches deep into league play as well. It’s all very weird, but I guess the coaches like it, which is why it keeps happening for the men while it does not for the women’s teams.
What it does do for sure is ratchet up the intensity of matches pretty early in the season. No one has played more than six matches in 2019 so far, but the entire league starts off action against each other on Friday. Teams are going to be gathering up three important conference standings points while maybe still figuring out what they are as a team this season. That’s some pretty heady stuff.
I know for a fact that Marquette isn’t quite the team that the coaches would have liked to see or perhaps the rest of the league expected to see. After all, Luka Prpa has played just 72 minutes in two matches this year while working his way back from foot surgery in the spring. Prpa was a preseason all-Big East honoree, and is easily one of the most dynamic midfielders in the entire league. While MU has been able to fend for itself pretty well without him this year, it’s unquestionably true that we haven’t really seen the best version of the Golden Eagles yet in 2019. That can only come with a healthy Prpa, and to be honest: I don’t know if we’re going to fully get that by season’s end.
Can Marquette do some damage in the league while still putting a few pieces together? That’s the big question to be answered on Friday night when Big East football kicks off at Valley Fields.
Oh, one more thing: This match is the back end of a doubleheader with the women’s team at Valley Fields on Friday night, which is why it’s a 7:30 start instead of the mostly traditional 7:05. It’s also “Area 51 Night” as apparently Friday is the day that the goofball “Storm Area 51” internet silliness is scheduled to happen. First 500 fans in attendance get a “specially branded stadium cup” although I’m not sure if the brand is MU or Area 51 or both. It’s possible that if you only come out for the men’s game, there will be no fancy stadium cups left. There will also be a beer truck at the game, and that’s never a bad thing.
Big East Match #1: vs Creighton Bluejays (3-2-1)
Date: Friday, September 20, 2019
Time: 7:30pm Central
Location: Valley Fields
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Caffeine.tv or the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
Marquette is 7-7-1 all time against Creighton. You might remember the draw very well, as it came in the Big East tournament semifinals last season. That ended up going to penalty kicks, where Josh Coan put the Golden Eagles through to the title game in the 12th round. There’s an argument to be made that failing to advance past Marquette kept Creighton out of the NCAA tournament last year, as they ended their season with a record of 11-4-3.
I wonder if they’re mad about that.
This year, the Jays are 3-2-1 on the season, with all three wins coming in their last four contests. Their first win of the year came at home against #21 Akron, and as someone who will always dislike Akron after MU’s NCAA tournament match against them back in the day, I tip my cap to Creighton for that one. Their other wins aren’t particularly interesting, but one of the losses and the draw is. I’m not going to fault Creighton for losing 1-0 to then-#4 Wake Forest, that’s for sure. We can have a conversation about fault for their 2-2- draw with then-#6 North Carolina, but that’s more about “they were winning 2-0 after 31 minutes” than anything else.
Seven different Bluejays have combined to score their 10 goals this season, with three guys putting two in the net. Luke Haakenson is one of them, and at 16 shots in six matches and the only full-time starter amongst that trio, he goes to the top of the scouting report for Louis Bennett. Haakenson also has two assists on the year to lead the team in that regard, so the Golden Eagles will have to be wary of him whenever he touches the ball.
Paul Kruse was tabbed as the best goalkeeper in the Big East in the preseason awards, but it’s been Collin Valdivia that’s started the last two matches for Creighton. Kruse left Creighton’s September 9th match against Columbia in the 81st minute with an injury, and he has not returned to the field since. Until we see different, I’d expect to see Valdivia in net on Friday night. The redshirt senior had just 196 minutes of action in his collegiate career before this month, and all of that was back in 2017. In his 2+ matches of action in 2019, he’s only stopping 60% of shots on frame, and he’s let in four goals in just under 190 minutes.