It’s hard to see the first weekend of action for Marquette as anything other than a success.
Sure, would it have been more fun and/or better if MU didn’t have to rally from a 2-1 deficit in the opener against Drake? Sure, absolutely, particularly since the lone goal for the Golden Eagles at that point was a penalty kick. But given the thunderstorms that rolled through Milwaukee that night and 1) soaked the field before MU’s women’s team played on it and 2) delayed the start of the men’s match by two and a half hours, I’m going to just say “hey, it was a weird night and Marquette won, who cares.”
Side bonus to that match: It apparently light a fire under Brooklyn Merl. The grad student from Germany scored an equalizing goal for the Golden Eagles in the 79th minute of the opener, which led the way to Edrey Caceres’ winner in the 80th. Then, for an encore, Merl impacted all three Marquette goals in the 3-0 win over Purdue Fort Wayne. He assisted the first and third strikes and then ran underneath a looooooooong outlet kick by keeper Ludwig Malberg to score the second goal on a transition play. That’s how you get to be Offensive Player of the Week in the opening week of the year in the Big East, not to mention tying Georgetown’s Jacob Murrell for the league lead in points at this point of the year.
I doubt that Merl will be able to keep up this torrid pace, but if teams at least have to start respecting him a little bit harder, that’s going to start opening up lanes elsewhere on the field for the Golden Eagles. If Merl getting more attention means easier goals for Caceres or Beto Soto or Karim Abdoul Pare, that’s a long term good thing for what the Golden Eagles are trying to do.
We should note the work of Malberg, not just for his assist against PFW. He also made six saves in that match, several in the final minutes, to earn his first clean sheet of the season. It’s a nice recovery from giving up two goals on four shots on frame in the opener, and it’s also the first shutout of Malberg’s career as a Golden Eagle. If that’s the direction that his play is going to go in, that’s also a big time long term benefit for Marquette.
While there’s a lot of good things going on for Marquette, this is no time to rest on anyone’s laurels. There’s a lot of Big Bad Matches coming up when Big East play gets going, so this pair of holiday weekend contests are big for the Golden Eagles in terms of getting and keeping everyone on the same page.
Match #3: vs Detroit Mercy Titans (0-2-0)
Marquette is 3-0-0 all time against Detroit Mercy. At least I presume that’s what’s going on here. The record book just lists a “Detroit” with three contests: September 1989, October 1989, and October 1990. This would line up with when Marquette and Detroit Mercy were both in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference — now known as the Horizon League — so this makes sense. Anyway, MU has a 9-2 scoring advantage all time in the series, and this will be the first time the two sides have played in Milwaukee since that first meeting.
UDM started the year off with a trip to California, and as you can see from the record, it didn’t go well for them. They gave up five unanswered goals in less than an hour in their opener against Saint Mary’s, and then fell behind 2-0 in the first 15 minutes against San Francisco. Believe it or not, they actually outshot Saint Mary’s even though they lost the match 5-1. This is the part of the show where you are not surprised to find out that Detroit Mercy was picked to finish 10th in the 10 team Horizon League this fall.
Alex Diac and Saeid Jannoun are Detroit Mercy’s goal scorers so far this fall, and they’ve both tallied on their only shots of the season. Guershom Sylvain is UDM’s returning leading scorer from last season after putting up two goals and two assists, but that also means that they’re replacing their top three scorers, including both guys who tallied more than two goals in 2022.
Quinn Tews has played every minute so far this year for the Titans, and yep, his stats stink. 3.50 goals per 90 minutes of play, and he’s stopping just 30% of shots on goal. Hey, that’s good news for UDM, they’ve only allowed 10 shots on goal through two matches. Detroit Mercy doesn’t have much in the way of Division 1 goalkeeping experience, with junior Robby Spradlin III playing in seven games for Gardner-Webb in 2021.
Match #4: vs Harvard Crimson (0-0-0)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Harvard.
FUN FACT: Harvard didn’t play a game this past weekend, even though they were allowed to by NCAA rules. I don’t know why. They didn’t play any August matches last year either, so I’m guessing it’s some sort of “we’re an Ivy League school” explanation. Speaking of last year, the Crimson went 9-4-4 overall with a 3-1-3 mark in Ivy play.
As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, the Ivy League has not issued a preseason poll for the conference, so I can’t tell you about where Harvard might be placed this season. I can, however, tell you that Willem Ebbinge and Alessandro Arlotti were in Top Drawer Soccer’s preseason top 100 player rankings. Marquette didn’t have anyone in the rankings, so advantage Crimson there.
Ebbinge and Arlotti were Harvard’s top two scorers a year ago, going for 18 and 17 points respectively. Ebbinge did it by way of assists, helping out on 12 of the 34 goals that he didn’t score, while Arlotti was a bit more balanced with five goals and seven assists. The Crimson also return one of the two guys that tied for the team lead in goals with six. That’s Ale Gutierrez, who tacked on an assist to tie for the third most points on the roster a year ago.
Harvard will be looking for a new starting goalkeeper for 2023 as Oskar Nilsson was a senior last year. He logged over 1,200 minutes while starting 14 times. Cullen MacNeil has the inside track to start against Marquette after three starts in September and October of 2022, and he stopped 80% of the 10 shots on frame in his three appearances. The Crimson will host Rhode Island on Friday afternoon for their first match of the season, so that will give MU a pretty solid idea of who’s going to get the nod come Monday afternoon.