In a sport where an 18 year old Julian Green can step onto a World Cup pitch for the first time and score a goal with his first touch, I suppose it's not surprising to see Marquette have such a strong returning roster for men's soccer. Head coach Louis Bennett has shown no fear in playing the best players he has regardless of age, and as a result, we have a core Golden Eagles squad that for the most part has at least one season playing together, if not more.
There's only one place for this discussion to start: C. Nortey. The native of Ghana had a firecracker of a freshman season, helping Marquette to their first ever Big East regular season title. He sat out the next year after knee surgeries, but came right back in 2013 as if he hadn't missed a second. Nortey finished tops on his team and third in the Big East in goals, including repeatedly being the only goal scorer for Marquette in 1-0 Big East matches. The impressive thing is that teams know Marquette wants to go to the redshirt junior, but they still couldn't stop Nortey from scoring.
Joining Nortey up top are sophomores Nick Parianos and Coco Navarro. They're the only other two returning forwards on the roster following the departure of Kelmend Islami. Parianos appeared in 11 of 21 matches in his freshman campaign, averaging just over 14 minutes per game. Parianos had a goal and an assist in his 155 minutes, but as he only took three shots in that whole stretch, that's a pretty respectable total. Navarro, on the other hand, quickly became a key cog in the machine. The California native and Real Salt Lake academy product started all 21 matches for MU, totaling 11 points on three goals and five assists along the way. It doesn't sound like much, maybe, but remember: Marquette won a lot of 1-0 games and five assists ended up putting Navarro into a six way tie for seventh most in the Big East. Also, he did this (skip ahead to the 1:03 mark):
so yeah, that's a pretty good freshman season.
Bryan Ciesiulka has been a fixture in the midfield for the Golden Eagles for such a long time, it feels weird to talk about those players without discussing him. In any case, for this season, we're looking at three returning midfielders: Seniors Brady Wahl and Sebastian Jansson as well as sophomore Louis Bennett II. LB2 quickly found his way into the hearts of Marquette fans in his freshman season, finishing second on the team with 13 points (4G, 5A). Bennett is getting listed here in the midfielders because that's where he's listed on the official roster, but I can't help but notice that when LB2 was called up to the US Under 20 Men's National Team this summer, he did so as a forward.
This will be Wahl's second season in Milwaukee after transferring to Marquette following two years playing for Ohio State. The 5'11" native of Geneva, Illinois, didn't make an official impact on the scoresheet last season, going without a single point while playing in every one of Marquette's matches and earning the start in 20 of them. Yet, whenever I got a chance to watch the team in action, when the ball was within 15 yards of the halfway line, there was Wahl in the neighborhood, attempting to make a play on the ball.
Jansson had a rough 2013, missing six games due to injury. He still found a way to score two goals and an assist, including opening the scoring against Providence in the Big East championship match with a slick header of a deflected Louis Bennett II shot. Jansson has been one of Marquette's more reliable midfielders in the past, and was one when healthy in 2013. Presuming that he's shaken everything off and is back to form heading into 2014, I'd expect Jansson to be a major contributor in his final season of college soccer. We probably shouldn't hold him to these kind of standards, though:
And now we reach the true strength of the group of returning players. MU has three defenders returning from last year's active roster, a defender back from a redshirt in 2013, plus added depth in a redshirt sophomore who has yet to play for Marquette. The most notable defender is Axel Sjoberg, and I mean notable in multiple ways. Sjoberg is the anchor of the back line of the Marquette defense and is starting to earn national recognition for his play. He's also one of the more proficient scoring center backs that you'll ever see, and that largely rests in the fact that Sjoberg stands 6'7" tall. His height has affected more than one corner kick on both ends of the pitch in his time in blue and gold, and will assuredly do so again this season.
Joining Sjoberg in returning from last year's squad is Adam Hermsen and Jake Taylor. Hermsen played in all 21 matches last season, earning a spot in the starting eleven on 13 occasions. At 5'11", the Appleton native is taller than I realized, but probably stems from two things. 1) standing next to Axel Sjoberg on a regular basis and 2) being one of the faster players on the pitch. Hermsen's speed up and down the wings allows Sjoberg to stay central and keep things jammed up in front of Charlie Lyon. Taylor played in 18 matches in 2013, all of them coming off the bench, and if I'm not mistaken, he was exclusively in charge of spelling Paul Dillon. Taylor showed flashes of the same offensive threat that Dillon posed for MU, scoring two goals and dishing out two assists. With Dillon graduating, it stands to reason that Taylor could see more time in 2014, but that might depend on how Coach Bennett plans on deploying his team.
After all, John Pothast returns from a 2013 redshirt to join the defense again in 2014. In 2012, the younger brother of Angelholms FF and former Marquette defender Eric Pothast started all 20 of Marquette's matches at central defense. That role was filled by Eric in 2013, and in order to properly organize the team going forward, John sat the year out. I'd expect him to return to his starting role alongside Sjoberg. Pothast also presents a bit of an offensive threat for Marquette, as he scored against DePaul and had the game winner against Providence back in 2012. Joining MU as a redshirt sophomore is Patrick Schulz. Schulz and John Pothast were club teammates before coming to Marquette, but Schulz has yet to see the field for MU in his two seasons in Milwaukee. He officially redshirted in 2012, but did not see action in his first season of eligibility in 2013. Still, the extra body with knowledge of how Bennett wants to run the show can't be a bad thing, but we'll have to see if Schulz can see the field this season.
Ok, look. There's other goalkeepers on this team as evidenced by this roster and this picture of their kits for Picture Day. I tell you what, God bless Kyle Gress, Mac Wheeler, and Brady Walsh and every moment of hard work they put in every day for Marquette soccer, but they're not playing a minute this year. They didn't play one last year, and since Wheeler and Walsh didn't play one minute the year before either, they both get to be redshirt sophomores this season. The reason why? Well, Charlie Lyon is currently seven shutouts away from breaking Marquette's all time record in that category. Lyon is already Marquette's all time leader in goals-against average at just 0.86 for his career, and his 81.5% save percentage is the second best in program history.