DePaul men’s soccer settles for 0-0 against Villanova

Entering year two in Big East play under head coach Mark Plotkin, DePaul looked to begin conference play the same way they did last season: picking up all three points. Instead, the Blue Demons and the Wildcats were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw after 110 minutes of action at Wish Field on Friday.

DePaul entered the game against Villanova in their worst form of the season, losing two straight games against Loyola and UIC and, in those two games, the Blue Demons combined to give up eight goals. On Friday, however, the defense wasn’t the issue for the Blue Demons because they held the Wildcats scoreless for the game and only conceded five shots on goal. 

The problem for the Blue Demons was their lack of finishing ability in the final third and their lack of control of the game in the second half and parts of the overtime. 

“The heat and all, I think they were dealing with it, but we needed to step up a little bit and when we got a goalie like Drew [Nuelle], we can rely on him a lot, so that helps,” sophomore forward Jack Richards said after the game. 

The entire script of the game flipped from the first half to the second half, after the Blue Demons controlled most of the 45 minutes — outshooting the Wildcats 7-0 in that time frame —  Villanova took control of the game after the halftime break. The Wildcats outshot the Blue Demons 16-3 in the next 45 minutes, but only five of those shots were on goal. 

As a result, DePaul goalie Drew Nuelle had to make multiple important saves to keep the game tied at zero. 

“I think my defense did well to set me up, so the [saves] may have looked difficult, but they were pretty routine for me,” Nuelle said. “But credit to my defense because they did a fantastic job today and I know we lacked that in the last two games, where I wasn’t in great positions to make saves, which is why we gave up too many goals. The defense did their job today; we were all in sync and it was all fluid.”

With the defense doing its part on Friday, the offense was expected to do the same against the Wildcats side, who was predicted to finish dead last this season in the Big East in the annual coaches’ preseason poll. 

While the offense had their moments throughout the game, especially in the first half when they were able to take seven shots, they could never create a dangerous enough chance to trouble the visitors. 

“I’m much happier how we performed just based on our last two results, which were a little bit disappointing, but to bounce back and get a shutout against a really good team,” Plotkin said. “To get a shutout and hang on like we did shows the testament of the character of this team, we are down a kid with a red card and a couple of tough injuries, so depth-wise we don’t have all of our guys we needed out there. So, just proud of the guys for kinda hanging on, playing way more minutes than they probably should’ve been.”

The Blue Demons were without sophomore midfielder Jacob Seeto due to a red card he received against UIC, and freshman forward David Gripman because he tore his ACL against Drake.

DePaul will take a mini-break from Big East play when they travel to face Oakland this upcoming Tuesday before resuming conference play next Saturday at Seton Hall.