Let’s start with the really bad news: Midfielder Alan Salmeron is suspended for this game. It will be the first match this season that he hasn’t started and just the third in the last three seasons. It will be the first time that Salmeron hasn’t appeared in a Marquette men’s soccer match since his freshman year back in 2018 when he played in 12 of MU’s 19 contests. The Illinois native was issued a red card in the second half of Marquette’s match against Butler on Wednesday, and by rule, he is automatically suspended for the following match.
Onwards to the merely bad news. If the Big East tournament started today, Marquette would be on the outside looking in. They are sitting in a tie for the sixth and final spot in the conference standings with DePaul at 10 points right now. Yes, Marquette holds a tiebreaker win over the Blue Demons, but DePaul has an extra match to be played still. If the tie holds — and that’s unlikely because DePaul has that extra chance at three points — then sure, MU would beat them out. For now, though, according to the official Big East standings, Marquette is listed in seventh place.
It gets worse.
Sure, every coach in the world will tell you to focus on the next match and the next match only. That’s good for the team, sure, but we’re not on the team, we’re watching from the outside. The fact of the matter is that Marquette’s regular season finale is against first place Georgetown. 12-1-0 overall Georgetown. 6-1-0 in the Big East Georgetown. #2 in the country Georgetown. +17 goal differential Georgetown. Allowed 10 goals in 13 matches Georgetown.
You get the idea.
Marquette’s chances of coming out of their final match of the regular season with a point in a draw much less three in a win are low. Facts are facts. Possible, sure, but not looking great.
That leaves this match, this Saturday afternoon road contest in New York, as MU’s last real shot at gaining points in the Big East standings. As luck would have it, St. John’s is currently sitting in fifth place in the conference standings with 11 points. A win here jumps Marquette past them and into the six team field for the time being. That’s good news! We’ll just conveniently ignore St. John’s having two more matches remaining after Marquette for the time being to focus on the good news here.
I don’t want to say it’s impossible for Marquette to make the conference tournament if they don’t win here. But, I think it’s safe to say that the pathway to get there gets very very difficult if they don’t. Best to march into Queens, lock up three points, and worry about everything else later.
Big East Match #9: at St. John’s Red Storm (8-4-2, 3-2-2 Big East)
Marquette is 4-3-3 all time against St. John’s. In a weird coincidence, all but one of these meetings have been a shutout one way or another, and yes, that means that the two sides have played to a scoreless draw three times. Each of the last two meetings had a 4-0 final with each side taking one and SJU getting the most recent W back in October of 2019. MU is 2-1-2 all time at Belson Stadium in this series.
St. John’s comes into this one with just one win in their last five matches. They’re 1-2-2 in that stretch with every single contest going to overtime. While none of this is particularly great for the Red Storm, we should point out that both losses in their last five were to teams that were ranked at the time of the match: #25 Providence and #2 Georgetown. In fact, they nearly escaped with a second straight draw in their most recent contest against the Hoyas, and a golden goal with less than 40 seconds left in overtime made the difference in that one.
While SJU’s record doesn’t necessarily make you think that they’re doing good things, they’re almost doubling up their opponents in terms of goals for and against at 16 to 9 through 14 contests this season. That’s pretty impressive when you consider the fact that the Johnnies are only outshooting their opponents by less than three shots per game. That might just be some lucky bounces here or there because the Red Storm’s foes have a better shots-on-goal percentage to this point of the season and it’s not a close margin either at 41% vs 35%.
Luka Gavran has something to do with that too, since the redshirt junior keeper from Canada is averaging just over three saves per game. His goals-against average is subatomic at 0.61 per ninety minutes played, and he’s stopping 83% of shots on goal. It’s going to take creativity at the highest level to beat him, and St. John’s isn’t allowing many shots to get that done.
On the other end, Brandon Knapp and Lucas Bartlett are the two guys that most need to be marked on defense. Knapp has four goals and a team high five assists for the team high in points with 13. Bartlett matches Knapp for the team lead in goals and has three assists as well for 11 total points. That’s half of SJU’s goals coming directly off their feet and eight of the team’s 18 assists, too. Einar Lye and Atila Ashrafi are both north of 20 shots on the season, but they don’t quite match the production from Knapp and Bartlett.