QUESTION #1 — What’s going to change about Marquette from last season to this season?
Last season, Marquette men’s soccer moved to 4-3-0 on the year with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee to regain possession of the Milwaukee Cup. This isn’t the worst record in the world, particularly since it included an opening match loss to preseason #11 Tulsa, but it’s also not the best mark in the world. Coughing up four unanswered goals in a span of 22 minutes to Wisconsin in a 4-2 loss: Bad. Getting into a Penalty Kick-Off in the second half against Yale after giving up a goal to the Bulldogs in the 7th minute: Bad.
But then Marquette opened up Big East play in their very next match after the Milwaukee Cup by going to a scoreless draw with then-#19 Xavier. Sure, MU got outshot 17-8 in the match, but they swiped a point from the ranked Musketeers, so that’s not all bad.
The problem was that Marquette went another nine matches without a win. By the time they rolled up at Valley Fields for the season finale — at 0-5-4 in league play, you ain’t doing nothing resembling playing in the postseason — the Golden Eagles had been outscored 15-9 in Big East play. Remember: That’s in eight matches because they tied Xavier at 0-0. A 5-1 win on Senior Night put MU at 14 goals for and 16 goals against in conference matches, as well as 36 for and 32 against overall.
This was, in a word, bad. Marquette’s overall mark of 5-9-4 was their lowest win total since going 3-11-2 in 2017. The 1-5-4 record in Big East matches was the lowest win total in conference play since the Golden Eagles went 1-7-1 in 2015.
So what’s going to change? Something has to change. It can’t just be “we’re going to hope that Ludwig Malberg is a better goalkeeper this year.” It can’t just be “well, last year was mostly just bad luck because MU outshot opponents 15.3 to 12.8 on a per game basis, things will just bounce the other way.” It can’t just be “well, Marquette only had three guys play in all 18 matches last year, and only five guys played in 17, consistency will solve a lot of problems.”
Some of that will help, sure, not questioning it.
But you don’t go winless for 10 straight matches because you had to keep changing your lineup or because you just caught some bad bounces. Something has to change for Marquette, change in a big way, if they’re going to change what direction the results went in a year ago.
QUESTION #2 — Will playing a metric ton of home games have a notable impact on Marquette?
Marquette is playing just one road game in non-conference action this season, and that one barely counts. That one game is the crosstown trip to Milwaukee, and so obviously that’s a quick bus trip to and from Engelmann Stadium before and after the match.
The Golden Eagles will open up with six straight home games at Valley Fields, bop off to Omaha to see Creighton on September 15th, return home for Milwaukee on September 19th, visit Butler on September 23rd..... and then play another three straight home games. Nine of the first 12 matches of the year are at Valley Fields, and 10 of the first 12 are in Milwaukee.
The reason why I ask if this will have a notable impact on Marquette this season is how last season went.
At home in 2022: 5-4-2
On the road in 2022: 0-5-2
You can see the obvious difference. Part of the problem is Big East play of course, as Marquette went 0-3-2 in road matches in league play a year ago while going winless in their first nine league contests. That Big East schedule isn’t getting easier with the shift to divisional play this season, not with Marquette landing in the same division as perennial NCAA tournament team and new BE affiliate member Akron.
But if Marquette can bottle some Valley Fields magic in the first six matches of the season, thus building some confidence as to what they’re doing as a team on the field.... well, perhaps that pays off down the line in conference play.
QUESTION #3 — What’s up with Christian Marquez playing in the back?
Christian Marquez has always been listed as a forward on Marquette’s roster. Through 57 career games and over 3,300 career minutes, he’s tallied four goals and six assists. Marquez has attempted 53 shots, putting 28 of them — 53% — on frame.
And yet, when I made the trip to Valley Fields for Marquette’s exhibition contest against Northwestern, I saw #15 in the back of Marquette’s formation.
Now, maybe this is mostly a product of Too Many Cooks for lack of a better phrase. Beto Soto and Karim Abdoul Pare combined for 23 points last season at forward. They need to be up front. Edrey Caceres put up 15 points helped by a team high seven assists, he needs to be towards the front of the midfield. At some point, you’re just running out of spots for guys to occupy in your formations.
But you know what I remember watching a lot of back in the day? I remember watching a whole lot of Paul Dillon ostensibly playing defense but doing a lot of moving the ball up the sideline/on the wing on his own. One of the most important and biggest goals in Marquette history was Dillon playing the ball up and lofting a cross to Coco Navarro.
Is there a plan to generate a little bit extra offense by way of having Marquez make use of his ballhandling abilities to shift the field forward for the Golden Eagles? That could be one of those changes that I was talking about before, and maybe, just maybe, that’s one that pays off.