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RV Marquette Men’s Soccer Preview: vs UTRGV & vs #21/#15 Wisconsin

If the Golden Eagles can run their record to 6-0-0, they might just be ranked next week.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a great start to the 2023 Marquette men’s soccer season, no doubt about that.

It’s hard to be better than 4-0-0 through four matches, but the Golden Eagles have come pretty close to being the best 4-0-0 that you can be. After beating Drake 3-2 in the opener, Marquette hasn’t allowed another goal since that match. That’s three straight shutouts for keeper Ludwig Malberg, and he’s had to make some plays to get there. The 6’4” Swede had six saves against Purdue Fort Wayne and another five against Detroit Mercy.

Things are going so well for Marquette that some segment of the eight people who vote in the United Soccer Coaches top 25 poll have the Golden Eagles just outside the top 25. That’s fantastic news, even if we can’t look at the teams that MU has beaten and say “ah, yes, this is why they are getting votes.”

With all of that said, this is no time to rest on any laurels. Last year Marquette was 3-1-0 through four contests with the loss coming in the opener against preseason #11 Tulsa. Pretty good start, especially coming off a 3-0 win over Michigan, but things went sideways in a hurry. Marquette would win just one more time in between that start and the regular season finale. Sure, Big East action played a big part of that decline, and yeah, you can pretty easily argue that Marquette looks like they’re playing better soccer this fall.

But you can’t just presume that things are going to keep rolling in your direction. Look no further than Marquette’s Monday night match. Not only are they going to be facing a ranked opponent, making that their toughest test of the year to this point, but Wisconsin themselves weren’t able to capitalize on a positive direction. We’ll talk about what happened to them in their preview.

One match at a time, one save at a time, one goal at a time. Keep stacking them up in a positive direction, and see where it all takes you.

Match #5: vs Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros (2-2-0)

Date: Friday, September 8, 2023
Time: 7:05pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloFC
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer

This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and UTRGV.

You have to look at UTRGV’s schedule in pieces. They’re 0-2-0 this season in road matches against ranked teams, but 2-0-0 against unranked teams no matter where they’re played AND they haven’t allowed a goal against unranked teams, either. That’s 2-1 to then-#19 SMU and 4-1 to then-#16 Tulsa to open the season for the two losses, but 3-0 vs Incarnate Word and 5-0 in the home opener against Texas A&M-San Antonio. Admittedly, TAMUSA is an NAIA program, but hey, still not a goal allowed.

That’s a perfectly acceptable start to the season for a team that was picked to finish seventh in the nine team WAC this season. The Vaqueros went 7-7-3 last season, including a 1-3-1 start that had two losses to ranked teams, so this seems a little bit better, especially since one of those losses was to a Division 2 squad.

Keaviano Francis has found the back of the net three times so far this season for UTRGV, and that leads the team in both goals and points. It is worth noting that two of his goals did come against the NAIA team on the schedule.... but also that was their most recent match so maybe he’s getting on a hot streak? Kgodiso Sukati has two strikes in the Vaqueros’ four contests to sit in second play. Jason Robles has two assists to stand as the only man with more than one helper on the team’s 10 goals to this point of the year.

I presume that we’re going to see Alexis Gonzalez in net for UTRGV on Friday night. He’s been the starter for all three of their games against Division 1 opponents this season and he’s played every minute. Garret Wild started against TAMUSA and Diego Gomez played the final 12 minutes of that one, but I’m going to chalk all of that up to “playing NAIA team” and “giving our top guy some time off.” With that said, Gonzalez hasn’t been lighting it on fire out there. The 2.00 goals against average is high more because of the four goals allowed to Tulsa than anything else at this point of the year, but more importantly, he’s only stopping 68% of shots on goal.

Match #6: vs #21/#15 Wisconsin Badgers (3-1-0)

Date: Monday, September 11, 2023
Time: 7:05pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloFC
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer

Marquette is 18-32-11 all time against Wisconsin. While that’s lopsided towards the Badgers over the course of time since the first meeting in 1964, things are a little better looking in the near term. Since 2010, Marquette is 6-5-1 versus Wisconsin, although the Golden Eagles haven’t won a home contest since 2014. UW comes in having won each of the past two meetings and three of the last four.

This is going to be an interesting clash, as both teams have Two Opponents In Common already this season. Marquette and Wisconsin just traded foes for the first weekend of the year, so both sides have 1) played Drake and Purdue Fort Wayne and 2) presumably have access to game tape of the other team playing those same squads. For what it’s worth, Wisconsin shut both squads out, 1-0 vs PFW and 2-0 vs DU.

The Badgers followed up that opening weekend with a home shutout win over then-#2 Kentucky, and that match was not close. Yes, it was a 1-0 final, but Wisconsin scored 72 seconds into the match and then held the Wildcats to just one shot in the first half and four total in 90 minutes while tallying up 13 of their own.

And then they went and lost 2-0 to UIC on Monday night. That is what we in the business (and by “the business,” I mean “the industry”) refer to as a “let down.”

Wisconsin has four total goals on the year, and Mitchell Dryden has two of them. He doesn’t have the team lead in points, as Maxwell Keenan has assisted on the three UW goals that he didn’t score himself. Feels like Marquette might want to try stapling a defender to Keenan, yeah?

Nate Crockford has played every minute in goal so far this season, and the two goals he let in against UIC raised — RAISED — his goals-against average to 0.50 on the year. He’s stopping more than 85% of shots on goal, so Marquette’s going to have to be particularly crafty to make sure they take good attempts. Overall, Wisconsin outshoots their opponents 15.5 to 6.0 on average, so tilting the field in the Golden Eagles’ favor will be a neat trick unto itself.