If we’re being polite and realistic, we can say that it was hard to make any definitive statements about what it meant that Marquette men’s soccer started off the year with five straight wins. All due respect to the opponents lining up on the other side of the field, but none of them were particularly expected to do anything amazing or impressive this season, so it becomes hard to say that Marquette did anything amazing by beating them. It’s good to be 5-0-0, but that’s about it.
That brings us to Monday night against #21 Wisconsin at Valley Fields, and well, I think we can safely say that the Golden Eagles did something impressive, perhaps two things, depending on how you want to count.
For the first 50 minutes, the match was all Marquette, as the Golden Eagles outshot the Badgers 13-2 and took a 3-1 lead in the match.
For the final 40 minutes, things tilted the other way as Marquette had to play the rest of the way on 10 men after a red card on Jai Hsieh-Bailey in the 52nd minute. It was clear that the Golden Eagles were content to make life miserable for the Badgers as opposed to any true attempts to generate offense, but that’s the smart play with 10 men and a two goal lead. Still, all of that required astute play from all 10 men and specifically keeper Ludwig Malberg who made just two second half saves and just one after Hsieh-Bailey’s card, but he was asked to catch dangerous ball after dangerous ball into the box.
All told, it was 3-1 at the final horn, thus moving Marquette to 6-0-0 on the year and giving the Golden Eagles their first signature win of the season.
Marquette started the match off with the ball and the Badgers barely even touched it for the first 80 seconds. A throw in from the river side of Valley Fields led to Edrey Caceres sliding a pass out in front of a charging Ryan Amond, making his first career start, and BOOM, 1-0 Marquette in the second minute of the match.
That lead did not last very long, as an attempt to clear a Wisconsin corner kick landed at the feet of Tim Bielic, and his knock on the ball took a deflection off of someone and curved it up and into the far corner of the net. It looked like Malberg was well positioned for Bielic’s intended aim, but the deflection left him with no chance to make a play on the ball.
That shot was one of just two in the first half for Wisconsin, and eventually, Marquette’s knocking on the door paid off. That came in the 37th minute as a short Malberg goal kick turned into a looooong downfield pass by Caceres right where no one could chase it down but Brookly Merl. He collected, settled, let a charging defender go past, and looped a shot from the corner of the 18 yard box to the far wall of the net. Just like was the case on Bielic’s goal, there was nothing much that UW keeper Nate Crockford was going to do about it. A bit of a bummer for him as he made five first half saves on Marquette attempts, but now his team was down 2-1 anyway.
That score held til halftime, but only til halftime. It took Marquette precisely 24 seconds to score a third time, which almost makes it sound like head coach Louis Bennett said “hey, y’all took 78 seconds to score in this match, I dare you to do better than that” in the halftime locker room meeting.
Officially, that’s Caceres’ goal, giving him a four point night thanks to his assists on both of MU’s first two goals of the night. However, on the replay, I’m pretty sure the deflection the ball takes is off of the heels of Karim Abdoul Pare. In either case, that’s a 3-1 lead, and unlike the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Guardians, Marquette did not blow that one.
Can I just say, watching the replay? The red card on Hseih-Bailey is not a great call. It’s a ball thrown out in front of him after a collection by Malberg, and he sees a Wisconsin player coming, and slides to try to boot it down the field away from the opponent..... and appears to never make contact with the Wisconsin player. I don’t think you can give a red card for “slid in front of an oncoming player and that guy fell down over the top of you” but that’s the call that it appears the referee made. Perhaps that’s just the difference of me seeing it through the camera as Hsieh-Bailey runs straight at the lens and the referee seeing it from a 90 degree different angle, which was straight through the back of the Wisconsin player.
Up Next: Marquette will kick off Big East play in their next match, even though they still have two non-conference contests left to go. They’ll be out in Nebraska on Friday night for a 7:30pm Central time start against Creighton, and MU will be without Jai Hsieh-Bailey as he serves a suspension for the red card. The Bluejays were picked to win the Midwest Division of the Big East, but moved to 1-2-2 on the year with a 3-1 win over Michigan on Friday night. They’ll be visiting Kansas City on Tuesday night before MU comes to town.