Can’t really knock a 1-0-1 start to the season, and that’s what Marquette men’s soccer has after a 2-1 win over UAB and a draw with UC Davis last weekend. As always, there’s some highs and some lows, and because it’s the nature of things, the lows are what make us ask questions about what’s going to happen in the future.
The good stuff is pretty obvious. Pulling out an overtime win with a goal in the second extra session? Great! Keeper Jackson Weyman making six saves across his first two collegiate matches ever to keep his record and the team’s 2019 record without a loss? Great!
I can even draw good news from the draw with UC Davis. Sure, no one likes ending up without a goal after 110 minutes of soccer. But less than 48 hours earlier, the Aggies took a 2-0 win from Wisconsin to open their season. That’s a Wisconsin team that was earning preseason top 25 votes at the time. As if to draw this point into further clarity, UW then beat UAB 2-1 on Sunday, just like Marquette did on Friday. I know, I know, matchups, transitive property blah blah blah. But, you have to find measuring sticks one way or another with so little data to look at this early in the season, and that draw with UC Davis is just fine if not a little bit good.
On the flip side, Manuel Cukaj’s header in overtime against the Blazers was Marquette’s only run of play goal of the first 200+ minutes of the season. MU’s first goal of the year came on a penalty kick by Connor Alba, and of course, there were no goals at all in match #2. That’s not troubling, per se, but it’s something to keep an eye on as we keep moving in the 2019 season.
It’s especially notable for the final troubling thing that I want to mention. Luka Prpa has yet to play in 2019. The preseason all-Big East midfielder is one of the most dynamic players in the entire conference, and his presence on the field could make a big difference in terms of finding goals. The Golden Eagles have a lot of proven talented offensive players, as well as some new faces that have poked their head above water early in this season. Prpa’s continued absence, presuming it continues in Friday’s match, isn’t a true problem as a result, but it does put a lid on what Marquette’s ceiling is for this season. Believe it or not, we’re just 17 days away from the start of Big East play, so we’ll see what happens between now and then.
Match #3: at South Florida Bulls (0-1-0)
Date: Friday, September 6, 2019
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Corbett Stadium, Tampa, FL
Streaming: Audio only, from Bulls Unlimited on iHeart Radio
Live Stats: Allegedly, GoUSFBulls.com will have stats, but there’s no link right now.
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
Marquette is 5-9-1 all time against USF. Remember, the two were both members of Conference USA, and thus played each other at least once a year during that entire stretch. The most recent meeting was a 2-1 South Florida win down in Tampa back in 2009.
Well, if you’re a South Florida fan, you can’t really say that the season is off to a bad start through one match. If you lose 1-0 to the defending national champions on a goal in the 70th minute, that’s not the worst result. USF lost at #1 Maryland in their opener, so that’s whatever. Sure, they got outshot 10-2, but giving up 10 shots total after giving up seven in the first half is fine. Only three of those shots were on target, which isn’t the worst thing either.
Considering the fact that USF was picked to finish fourth in the AAC this season, standing in there like that against the preseason #1 team in the country is pretty darn good. They were picked behind unanimous favorite UCF, SMU, and future Big East member UConn, but there wasn’t that much separation in the points between the Huskies and the Bulls.
Two Bulls ended up on the AAC preseason all-conference team: Junior defender Avionne Flanagan and junior forward Adrian Billhardt. Flanagan started in all but one of USF’s matches a year ago, contributing two goals to the offense. Billhardt started in 13 matches, played just over 1,000 minutes, and added four assists.
Senior Harrison Devenish-Meares started and played all 90 minutes in net against Maryland, so I presume he’ll be back out there against the Golden Eagles. As the Bulls went 7-8-2 a year ago, Devenish-Meares started all but one match. He had a goals-against average of 1.55, and a save percentage of just .719. If Marquette can get clear shooting lanes at him, they should be able to put the ball in the net enough to get the win.