Did you realize that we’re deep into the back half of the Marquette men’s soccer schedule?
Well, maybe not deep right now, but by the time these two matches that we’re previewing are done, that will definitely be true. Nine matches down, seven matches to go, and those numbers turn into 11 and five by the time the sun comes up on Tuesday morning. It’s the endgame now, as Stephen Strange would say, so it’s probably as good of a time as any to take a peek at Ye Olde RPI board and see how the Golden Eagles are doing.
It also helps that the NCAA just debuted the RPI on Monday morning.
The answer: Pretty good!
We didn’t do a “Where are we now” for men’s soccer because of how early Big East play started like we did for women’s soccer and volleyball, so this is our first assessment of where things are for Marquette. That 6-0-0 start to the season did MU a bunch of good as they currently sit at #26 in the RPI calculations through matches played on September 24th. That’s second best in the Big East, trailing only #4 Georgetown. Marquette is the only other top 40 team in the conference, as Akron is at #41 following their draw with St. John’s, and yes, much more on that in a moment when we get to the Johnnies.
Keeping in mind that this is a spot with just over 200 teams, Marquette’s schedule is quietly pretty good. MU is ranked #14 in non-conference RPI, as the win over #24 Wisconsin is doing them a world of good, as is three more top 100 victories. The next two matches aren’t going to do the Golden Eagles a bunch of good in terms of helping the RPI, as they’re both Quadrant 4 contests (yes, quadrants, just like for men’s basketball, sorting by home/road/neutral and everything) so they’re on the low end of teams on the schedule this season.
In any case, the Golden Eagles have done an excellent job of putting themselves in position to qualify for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the Spring 2021 season. They have to finish the job, which would definitely include not tripping over their next two matches or the DePaul match coming up on October 18th, which is also Quadrant 4. But that’s avoidance goal thinking. Win matches, make tournament. It’s that simple for Marquette right now.
Big East Match #3: vs St. John’s Red Storm (4-3-2, 0-1-1 Big East)
Marquette is 5-4-3 all time against St. John’s. The Golden Eagles ended the 2022 season with a win over the Johnnies to snap a two match losing streak in the series. Those two losses are MU’s only two losses against St. John’s since 2008.
Let’s start with something that we know for sure about Friday night’s match. We know for sure that Markus Pusztahegyi and Justin Kopay will not play against Marquette. Pusztahegyi picked up a straight red card in the 26th minute of SJU’s most recent match, while Kopay matched him in the 48th minute. By rule, both men are suspended for their team’s next match, and that’s against the Golden Eagles. There’s also a mystery red card in that box score from the 89th minute. It’s charged to #0 on the box score but there’s no name attached to it. There is a stoppage in the FloFC replay of the match, but the announcer never makes mention of what’s happening. Is there someone on the SJU bench who’s also not making the trip to Milwaukee?
All of this is context for what the result of that match was: A 1-1 draw with #4 Akron. St. John’s took the lead on the Zips after Pusztahegyi’s red card and Kopay’s red card was for a blatant handball to stop Akron from equalizing the match. If you’re wondering how St. John’s managed to do all of this while getting outshot 17-1 in the second half, most of which was after Kopay was ejected, I have two things to say. #1 is keeper Alec McLachlan only needed to make six saves on those shots to keep Akron to just one goal, and #2 is the weather was awful with strong winds and bunches of rain.
Fun, huh? Marquette gets to play St. John’s on the heels of that, although they get to play them without two of the guys who started the match. Is that good? Is that bad? Is St. John’s good or bad because they’re currently riding a three match winless streak? Are they good or bad because they were 4-1-1 before that streak started?
We will get two of the most prolific goal scorers in the Big East in this match, by the way. Marquette’s Brooklyn Merl and St. John’s Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau both scored in their team’s most recent match to stay even for the goals lead in the conference this year. Fleuriau Chateau’s six goals along with an assist give him the team lead in points as well, and perhaps most interestingly, he’s come off the bench in every single match this season. Max McNulty has four goals and four assists to stand as the team leader in helpers and the most productive scorer amongst the regular starters for St. John’s.
The previously mentioned Alec McLachlan has been the regular keeper for the Johnnies this year, starting eight times. He also subbed out at halftime twice, but he’s still up over 600 minutes played this year. He’s, uh, not doing so hot, even after all of those second half saves against Akron. McLachlan is letting in 1.43 goals per 90 minutes and he’s only stopping 64% of shots on goal. St. John’s easily outshoots their opponents on average, but so does Marquette. One of those two things is going to hold true on Friday, or at least trend closer than the other.
Match #11: vs Northern Illinois Huskies (2-6-0, 0-2-0 Missouri Valley)
Marquette is 17-11-2 all time against Northern Illinois. The Huskies are one of the Golden Eagles’ most regular non-conference foes, at least since the series was revived after a break between 1997 and 2010, but this is the renewal of the series as they did not play in 2022. Northern Illinois came out ahead the last time these two teams met in 2021, but Marquette has won five of the last seven meetings dating back to 2012.
Northern Illinois presents an interesting note in the Marquette schedule. The Golden Eagles will play Akron later this year because the Mid-American Conference stopped sponsoring men’s soccer after last season. The Big East gave a home to Akron, partially because the Zips have a long history of national relevance in the sport. NIU is also a MAC school, but they ended up shipping their men’s soccer program off to the Missouri Valley Conference as an affiliate member.
The Huskies caught a bit of luck on Tuesday night. Well, as much as luck factors into their season so far. They didn’t suffer their seventh straight loss to a Division 1 opponent.... but not because they won. Nor did they go to a draw. No, lightning delays caused their home date with Loyola Chicago to get called off. That’s not the luck. The luck is that NIU didn’t lose the match because they were trailing 2-0 when the match was called in the first half. They haven’t won a match against a Division 1 team since their opener, a 1-0 victory against Western Illinois. Yes, they have two wins on the year, but that’s because they beat Division 3 Aurora 7-2.
Oh, and that match was 3-2 in the 71st minute after Aurora scored on their only shot of the second half.
Eddie Knight and Camilo Estrada both have three goals on the season to lead Northern Illinois in that department. Knight scored all three of his goals against Aurora, and Estrada tallied two of his in that same match. So, yeah. Taisei Arima has two goals and three assists to stand in a tie with Knight for the team lead in points with seven... but one of this goals and one of his assists were against Aurora.
Jakub Rojek has played all but one game in net for NIU, and yes, the one is the Aurora match. With the two Loyola goals on Tuesday wiped from his record, he’s still allowing 2.00 goals per 90 minutes and stopping just 71% of shots on frame. The Huskies are getting badly outshot by Division 1 opponents, 15.6 to 8.6, so he’s doing the best that he can. If Marquette can have their standard offensive game against NIU, they’re probably going to be able to find ways to score effectively.