Corners a concern for men’s soccer

When either the men’s or the women’s soccer team earns a corner, there’s tangible excitement at Valley Fields. It starts with public address announcer Dan Pfeifer, who yells, “Corner kick Marquette” with as much ferocity as he calls goals. That’s followed by pulsating music, most recently the beat from “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed.

However, corners haven’t exactly been notable for the men’s soccer team lately. Marquette has yet to score directly off a corner kick this season, going 0 for 63.

You have to go back to an Oct. 3, 2015 game against Villanova to find a Marquette goal off a corner, when a Louis Bennett II short corner led to a C. Nortey goal. That’s 19 games without a corner kick goal.

It isn’t for lack of chances either. The Golden Eagles are in the top half of the conference in corners this season, ranked fourth with an average of 5.73 per game.

That’s not a good sign for the Golden Eagles, especially with the lack of offense the team has gotten as of late. Although Marquette still ranks near the top in goals per game due to some high-scoring outcomes in non-conference play, they haven’t scored more than a lone goal in a game in five straight matches. They’ve been shutout in three of those outings.

Last year it was easy to blame the team’s lack of size. However, the Golden Eagles now have Danny Jarosz and Anton von Hofacker, who are 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-6, respectively.

So what’s wrong? Maybe it’s just personnel. It’s a team that hasn’t played together all that long, and even with his size, heading isn’t von Hofacker’s specialty.

“The days of Axel Sjoberg, that could demand a lot of attention and other people could harvest the fruits of him being 6-foot-7, really helped,” head coach Louis Bennett said. “The coaching staff have to find the right people to do the right jobs and have it all fused on the same page.”

Maybe it’s just a mental thing – the Golden Eagles have had some strong chances but have been denied on a few point-blank shots.

“It’s a belief thing for sure,” said defender Danny Jarosz, who Bennett called the team’s best header. “We have the right pieces to do it. You just have to believe the ball is going into the back of the net.”

It could be tactical, as so many different pieces need to come together for a corner to work.

“We have to get everything right, all the small details right every single play,” said Luka Prpa, who has taken a majority of the team’s corners. “Good service, good separation, good timing, everybody getting to their spots.”

No matter what the cause, now would be a good time to fix it. Corners could be vital for Bennett’s squad as they’ll need to take advantage of the limited chances they’ll get over the next few weeks. Marquette’s remaining schedule includes some of the top teams in the conference. The Golden Eagles will face two teams currently in the top ten in the NSCAA ranking — No. 9 Butler and No. 10 Creighton. Xavier and Providence are third and fourth in the conference standings, so the only remaining opponent near the bottom of the standings is DePaul. Yet, even the Blue Demons have a winning record overall.

This tough stretch comes after the Golden Eagles have already dug themselves a hole. Marquette is last in the conference standings, failing to earn three points against either St. John’s or Seton Hall, two of the three teams picked below Marquette in the coaches’ preseason poll.

So goals? They could really come in handy right now.