As we start Big East play for Marquette men’s soccer (even with one non-conference match left to go), I think it’s important to note exactly how weird this season has been so far. Amongst the highlights:
- Marquette shot themselves in the foot with an own goal 30 minutes into the opener against the #11 team in the country and never recovered
- Scored more goals than in any match for the past two seasons combined against Utah Tech
- Got outshot but beat USF thanks to a second half penalty kick
- Gave up four goals in about 20 minutes of elapsed game time to Wisconsin
- Played a match that featured not one, not two, not three, but four penalty kick goals including the game winner in the 85th minute thanks to a red card against the MU keeper
- Won the second highest scoring Milwaukee Cup in the nearly 50 years of rivalry history mostly because Marquette kept sending corner kicks directly at Alex Mirsberger and the Panthers had no idea what to do about it and also this game had the UWM keeper forgetting he can’t leave the 18 yard box to play the ball with his hands.
Weird! It’s all weird!
So what does this mean for Marquette’s efforts to finish in the top six of the Big East and reach the conference tournament? No idea! You know what was a big help towards Marquette getting there? Four of the five matches that happened this past weekend — remember there’s 11 teams in the league so someone has to get left out all the time, MU was that time last weekend — went to a draw! St. John’s in first with three points, eight teams in a tie for second with one point, Georgetown and idle Marquette in last place with no points. I can’t tell you what games MU will and won’t win this season, but I can tell you that everyone else constantly playing to a standstill is good news for the Golden Eagles..... as long as they pick up a win here and there.
Task #1 in regards to acquiring three points? Handing someone their first loss of the season.....
Big East Match #1: at #19 Xavier Musketeers (6-0-2, 0-0-1 Big East)
Marquette is 8-4-1 all time against Xavier. The Golden Eagles came up short in last year’s meeting in Milwaukee, but that snapped a four match unbeaten streak against the Musketeers and a 4-1-1 run since 2016. There have only been four shutouts in one direction or another in this series that dates back to 1987.
That goose egg in the loss column for Xavier isn’t the only zero that’s been showing up for them this year. The Musketeers have posted four shutouts in their six victories, and up through a September 12th game at Northern Kentucky, they had allowed just one goal with that one coming in a 1-1 draw against Eastern Illinois.
Speaking of Xavier’s draw against the Panthers, both of XU’s draws this season are kind of weird when you consider the fact that we’re talking about a team that’s currently ranked in the top 25 of the United Soccer Coaches poll. Let’s just be honest about it: Eastern Illinois is 1-4-1 right now and Seton Hall is 3-1-3. These teams are not exactly bowling the world over, but they stymied a very good team. EIU provided an equalizer, somewhat by luck when it deflected in off one of the Xavier defenders in the 71st minute, but XU outshot them 16-5 in the match. The Musketeers staked themselves to a 2-0 lead against the Pirates in the 79th minute, and you’d think that kind of thing would be very safe..... except Seton Hall broke up the shutout in the 84th minute..... and then Xavier coughed up a penalty kick in the 90th minute, just 32 seconds away from a win.
That’s not ideal. Thanks to the magic of FloSports, I pulled up the replay to see the foul that caused the PK, and let me tell you, it is absolutely the stupidest decision I have ever seen with less than 40 seconds remaining in a match that you’re leading 2-1. “Ah, yes, he has crossed the border into the area where if I commit a terrible foul, it will be a penalty kick, time to make an obvious leg sweeping tackle from the side, right in full view of the referee, who is definitely not going to let any shenanigans slide by in a match that has already had eight yellow cards issued.”
Anyway, that’s why Xavier is 0-0-1 to start off league play instead of sitting comfortably with three points atop the table with St. John’s, the only team to have won on opening night.
While Xavier is mauling people in goals 15-5 so far this year, they’re not overpowering people with their offense. They’re averaging just under 12 shots a match, and only outshooting opponents by three shots per outing. Fabrizio Bernal de la Garza and Jerome Jolly are at the top of the chart in goals with three each, but de la Garza has the edge in total points because he’s added an assist to his season as well. With that said, Jolly did miss XU’s first two contests of the season, so he’s had a strong showing in the six matches that he has played.
Cole Jensen has been outstanding in net for Xavier when he’s not being betrayed by his defenders giving up 90th minute penalty kicks. His goals-against average is a microscopic 0.63 even with those late two markers from Seton Hall against his good name, and he’s stopping over 85% of shots on goal this year. The redshirt junior from Iowa had never played a single minute of live college soccer action before this season, so he’s definitely making the most of his opportunities here.