You know what’s weird about Big East soccer so far this season, at least just for league play? 10 matches played, just four teams taking a loss. The flip side of that is only four teams have earned a win. Seven teams, including YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles are still winless in conference action.... but there are also seven teams, also including MU, who are still unbeaten.
This is probably going to lead to some wild tiebreakers down the line with so many season series ending up in draws, but for now, the entire league table is very much completely wide open. Butler and Villanova are tied for first with four points, while DePaul and Marquette are tied for last place with one point each. Both the Blue Demons and the Golden Eagles have only played one match so far this season, so they’re going to be able to play catch up on everyone else who has played two contests so far. If everything in the table keeps staying so tight with more draws coming down the line, then being able to play one extra match as the season goes on is a notable advantage for the Golden Eagles.
And for DePaul as well, I guess.
For now, all Marquette can do is play the matches in front of them. They already swiped a scoreless draw on the road from a nationally ranked Xavier team for their first point of the year in the league, which is kind of good news. Friday’s match is a home date for Marquette, and hopefully they can make something good happen with the homefield advantage in the Valley. But down the line, MU’s next two contests after Friday night, both over the next week-plus, will be on the road. Can Marquette build up a strong base of points in Big East play mostly on the road, knowing that four of their final six matches are in Milwaukee? Can they get themselves most of the way home to a top six finish and a spot in the Big East tournament this way? Can they replicate their quality play against the Musketeers to keep taking points off of teams, especially ones that are earning top 25 votes like Friday’s foe is?
Big East Match #2: vs RV Butler Bulldogs (5-2-1, 1-0-1 Big East)
Marquette is 7-6-1 all time against Butler. The Golden Eagles are 3-1-1 in the last five meetings, but the one loss was last year’s contest in Indianapolis, which was decided by one goal in the now defunct regular season overtime after a 10 man Marquette equalized the game in the 83rd minute. Marquette has not lost to the Bulldogs at home since 2017.
So the question obviously is “Why is Butler receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches top 25 poll?” Glad you asked! It’s mostly very simple: They beat then-#14 Marshall 1-0 in a game that was ended in the 84th minute due to lightning in their second regular season match of the year. That got them 19 points worth of votes in the very next poll, and then after beating Oakland next time out, they shot up to #12 in the country. No, this does not make sense, but now all of a sudden, 3-0-0 Butler has 92 poll points.
Guess what they did next? That’s right, lost to RV Ohio State and #15 Indiana.
The first one dropped them to #20, the next one dropped them commmmmmmmmpletely out of the polling. A draw with DePaul, a 9-0 smashing of a Lindenwood team that is debuting in Division 1 this season, and a 4-1 win over UConn this past Saturday later, and zooooooop, right back into getting 13 points worth of votes after none at all last week. It defies logic.
Think about it this way: Absent the 9-0 desecration of Lindenwood’s souls, Butler is +4 on the year in goal differential at 11-7 in seven matches. Three of those four goals all came against UConn this past weekend. I’m not trying to say that Butler’s bad, but I absolutely can not explain why anyone with a vote in the USC poll thinks they’re a top 25 team right now. Indiana’s not even ranked right now, and they lost to the Hoosiers! Is it exclusively because they beat now-#4 Marshall in a game that was ended early? Marshall was outshooting them 11-1 in the second half when that was terminated! Come on!
Palmer Ault is Butler’s offensive leader. His six goals are twice as many as anyone else and his 14 points thanks to two assists on the board are twice as many as anyone else as well. [Big Flashing Neon Sign] However, two of Ault’s goals and both of his assists came in the Lindenwood game. That still gives the 5’10” freshman four goals on the year outside of that, and that’s still enough to lead Wilmer Cabrera on the stat sheet in that department. Most notably, he is coming off a two goal outing against UConn this past weekend.
Gabriel Gjergji is back in net for Butler for the fifth straight season. The 6’1” Italian has started every game he’s appeared in for the Bulldogs since the 2018 season, and there’s reason to believe that his one is shaping up to be his best. He’s currently holding his second best goals-against average at 1.07 and his second best save percentage as well at .763. It’s reasonable to think that he could end up dialing both numbers into career bests by the end of the season, so it’s up to Marquette to do their best to ruin those chances.