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Marquette Men’s Soccer Preview: vs Villanova

League play starts on Saturday for the Golden Eagles, and so they get a chance to reset the board.

DePaul v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With at least 10 matches to be played, I don’t want to say that this Marquette men’s soccer season isn’t going anywhere good. But it’s also gone pretty poorly since late in the first half against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, which was Match #2 out of the six that have been played so far this year. That’s when Marquette gave up two relatively quick goals to the Cougars and had to dig out of that 2-1 deficit in the second half. They did and ended up winning, but that didn’t really right the ship in the long run.

Next up was a match against Kansas City where Marquette let in a goal that certainly looked like they should have been able to stop it, but again, MU ended up with the win. That was also the last time that Marquette won at all this season. A 1-0 loss to a Tulsa team that’s having themselves quite the start to the season isn’t that big of a deal..... but when it’s partnered with a 3-0 loss with all three goals coming in the first 30 minutes and a 1-0 double overtime loss in a match that had nearly non-existent offense from the Golden Eagles...... well, that’s a whole big bag of yikes.

And now it’s time for Big East play. Things get bigger and more important from here, which is not great news for a Marquette team that has already gakked away the national ranking that they had in the preseason top 25 poll. Two of their first three matches — thankfully, not this first one — are against teams at least earning votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll. That’s not going to be a picnic, especially after Marquette seemed to be having problems with a Wisconsin team that was picked to finish last in the Big Ten. That’s not a good sign for putting points on the board to try and claim a conference tournament berth when that rolls around in November, but again, that’s next week’s problem.

This week’s problem is not looking as bad as they have over the last 190+ minutes of soccer. I don’t know what the specific fixes are for head coach Louis Bennett and his staff, but I have a good idea for a general starting position: Stop getting outshot 12-10 like you are on average so far this season.

Big East Match #1: vs Villanova Wildcats (4-1-0, 0-0-0 Big East)

Date: Saturday, September 18, 2021
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: FloFC.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Sports
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer

Marquette is 3-4-1 all time against Villanova. The divisional play format in the spring season broke up a seven year run where the two sides played every year thanks to the 10 team Big East. Because I can see you can do simple arithmetic, yes, Marquette and Villanova only played one time before the Reformation. Marquette is currently riding a two game winning streak in the series and shut out the Wildcats in both 2018 and 2019.

Villanova has done us a favor in terms of assessing what their season has been to this point. There are two immutable facts about the Wildcats’ first five games of the season:

  1. If Villanova scores a goal, they win.
  2. When Villanova scores, they always score twice.

In fact, we very nearly had a third immutable fact, but VU did not give up a goal to Rider in their opener and so they won 2-0 instead of 2-1 as they did in their other three victories this season.

The lone loss on the season came at home against Albany. The Great Danes ended up with a 73rd minute penalty kick goal that ended up deciding the result. However, it was not a deserved result as VU ended up outshooting Albany 19-8 at the end after holding the visitors without a shot at all in the first half.

The Wildcats have eight goals and six assists on the season, but they’ve been heavily reliant on two men to get those. Lyam MacKinnon, a junior forward from Switzerland, has three goals and two assists on the year while Balthi Saunders, a freshman forward from Brooklyn, has two goals and an assist. That’s five of eight goals and three of six assists for the team from just those two guys. This shouldn’t be surprising, honestly. MacKinnon (26) and Saunders (14) are the only guys on the team who have taken more than seven shots so far this year, so of course they’re the ones with the points. Properly mark them, and all of a sudden Villanova’s going to have some problems.

Carson Williams has played every minute in net so far this year and since he’s allowed a goal in all but one match this year, you can guess that things are not going perfectly well back there. His goals-against average of 0.77 is pretty great, but with Villanova outshooting opponents by about four shots per game, it seems clear that his field players are really helping Williams out there. His save percentage makes it look that way as well, as Williams is only knocking down 67% of shots on goal through five matches. If Marquette can generate quality chances — and that’s an if at this point of the season — they should be able to find the back of the net.