Yeah, it was wild, to say the least, and I dare say that it should mark the end of a career wearing blue and gold.
Let’s start with what we thought was good news at the time, and to be honest, the goal scoring proliferation by Marquette in the first half hour is still good news after the fact. Jai Hsieh-Bailey got the Golden Eagles on the board first in this one, connecting on what was just the second shot of the match. A short corner kick turned into some fancy footwork for Edrey Caceres, and he laserbeamed a pass right to Hsieh-Bailey’s head on the far post for the 1-0 lead.
Marquette’s second goal came in the 31st minute as Ryan Amond persisted through contact, found Abdoul Karim Pare, who in turn backheeled the ball in front of Beto Soto who may or may not have gotten a teensy bit lucky with a UConn deflection off keeper Jayden Hibbert. I say may or may not because we’ll never know where Soto’s original strike was headed.
It looked like Marquette was going to get out of the first half with that 2-0 lead, even while getting nearly doubled up in shots, 11-6, but the Huskies’ 12th shot of the match came from Kieran Chandler, and he found the back of the net after recovering the rebound.
43 ' | UCONN GOALLLL!!!— UConn Men's Soccer (@UConnMSOC) October 14, 2023
Kieran Chandler scores his second goal of the season to pull us within 1! pic.twitter.com/lkSYVyfNy1
Two things about the aftermath of the goal: Marquette keeper Ludwig Malberg was given a yellow card for unsporting conduct, but all I see him do is object to getting interfered with by UConn’s Moussa Wade.... and while I understand his objection, I’m not sure a neutral party would agree that there was a true problem with the contact. The other thing is the fact that UConn’s Scott Testori and Marquette’s Adrian Lara got into a rugby scrum in the back of the net over who was going to take the ball out, as Testori wanted to hurry the restart with the Huskies having freshly cut the lead in half. Here’s the thing about that: The clock stops on a goal in college soccer. There’s no reason to hurry the ball to midfield for Marquette to restart play after the goal, no time is ticking away. But neither Testori nor Lara suffered any ill effects by way of a booking for it.
But it’s important to note the scuffle, I think, particularly when there were just eight total fouls in the first half.
Why? Well, because in the 67th minute, with the score still at 2-1, the ball went out of play by the UConn bench after Marquette cleared it away from their net. UConn’s Ayoub Lajhar, who is a player on the roster but was wearing a coat and never played in the match after playing in every contest before Saturday night, picked up the ball and flipped it to his teammate, a teammate who seemed unaware it was UConn’s ball. Part of this was because it wasn’t, once play eventually restarted, but in any case, Marquette’s Brooklyn Merl gave Lajhar a two-handed shove, sending Lajhar to the ground.
Merl was thrown out of the match on a straight red card after a lengthy VAR review and adjudication process because a relatively short melee broke out following Merl’s shove. All due respect to the referee for making sure nothing worthy of further ejection happened in the melee. Yes, Lajhar was also shown a red card, presumably because the call was Marquette ball for a throw in, and he interfered in the process of the match. However, there was absolutely zero reason for Merl to shove him, whether or not it was Marquette’s ball, and quite honestly, because it was a MU throw forthcoming, that makes Merl’s actions even worse. Pure and simple: It was dumb and dangerous.
Merl will sit out Marquette’s next match by way of red card rule, leaving just two matches left in the regular season. I don’t think there’s a reason that Merl should play for Marquette again this year after that.
The card against Merl left Marquette with 10 men for the remainder of the match. The chances that they had of holding onto their lead for 23 minutes weren’t terrible, but less than four minutes after the melee, Scott Testori — yes, the guy who fought with Adrian Lara over the ball after Kieran Chandler’s goal — pulled UConn even at two goals each.
71' | UCONN TIES IT!!!!! pic.twitter.com/42nAzLG8ih— UConn Men's Soccer (@UConnMSOC) October 15, 2023
LESS THAN THREE MINUTES LATER, Kieran Chandler got red carded out of the match. Marquette slipped a terrific through ball to a sprinting Kyle Bebej, and right before everything got to the top of the 18 yard box, Chandler tackled Bebej from behind. Live call from the UConn announcers on FloSports: “That’s a bad foul by UConn.”
72:46 on the clock, both teams playing with 10 men, 2-2 on the scoreboard.
Eight minutes later, it wasn’t 2-2 any more.
THE HUSKIES COME ALLLL THE WAY BACK FROM 2-0 DOWN!!! WHAT A SCENE IN STORRS! pic.twitter.com/qngIHGAQfK— UConn Men's Soccer (@UConnMSOC) October 15, 2023
Yep, Scott Testori again.
I want to be clear about this: The 3-2 win is deserved for UConn at the end of the day. Forgetting about literally everything else that happened in the match, once Chandler was ejected, the Huskies outshot Marquette 9-3. One of Marquette’s three shots was the free kick following Chandler’s card. After UConn went up 3-2, Marquette managed just one shot in the nine minutes and change remaining in the match, and they came up empty on two corner kicks — not empty in goals, empty in official shots recorded — in that time, too. Overall, UConn outshot Marquette 29-12, so again: Throwing literally everything else about the match out and then measuring just on shots and goals, it’s a fair result.
It’s just that the process to get there was objectively bonkers.
Up Next: Marquette attempts to salvage whatever remains of their season after dropping to 1-4-0 in Big East play when they host DePaul on Wednesday night at Valley Fields. The Blue Demons are 0-4-1 in the Big East and 2-7-3 overall after going to a 1-1 draw with Butler at home on Saturday afternoon. Why is that going to be the last attempt to salvage this season? Because MU’s final two matches of the year are against the teams currently ranked #3 and #5 in the country. Not holding out a lot of hope, y’know?