Marquette men’s soccer dropped a bombshell into preseason preparations here at Anonymous Eagle on Friday morning when they announced that midfielder Louis Bennett II has signed a professional contract with Anorthosis Famagusta FC in Cyprus. He will forego his senior season with Marquette, but because he started at Marquette a semester early, Bennett is only a few credits short of his degree and is on track to graduate by the end of this academic year.
Bennett appeared in 55 games in three seasons for the Golden Eagles, making the start in 53 of them. He tallied nine goals and 14 assists in his time in a blue and gold uniform, and was a part of the high water mark of Marquette soccer in 2013 when MU beat Akron for the program’s first ever NCAA tournament victory.
Bennett will join Anorthosis Famagusta with a three year contract. His pathway to the team in Cyprus is paved by having dual citizenship with the United States and the United Kingdom, and Bennett will join their 20 man first team roster immediately.
Here’s Marquette head coach Louis Bennett on the departure of his star midfielder and son:
“When someone commits to play for Marquette, our job (as a coaching staff) is provide opportunities to prepare them to be successful and happy in future endeavors, whatever they may be. As long as their degree is in their focus and attainable, I have to support and encourage them to take advantage of all opportunities to establish new goals and chase new dreams as college is a spring board to the future.
“In this case, his Marquette experience has afforded him this kind of opportunity and, even though I’m sad to see him go, I’m happy that he is able to achieve his boyhood dream, while also achieving his goal of earning a Marquette degree.”
I’m probably overthinking it here, but that comes across as more than a little bit of shade being thrown at Coco Navarro, who departed Marquette in January of 2015 after two seasons.
The elder Bennett filled in a little more of the puzzle in an interview with Jack Goods of the Marquette Wire. LB2 had been training with the Chicago Fire and Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer over the summer, and he got an opportunity to go to Cyprus to train with AFFC as well.
“It was a complete and utter surprise,” Bennett said. “Things over the summer were going really well. He had an invite to go and train in Cyprus. He went to train and after a few days they started to get really interested in what he was, who he was and what he was doing.
“We went back and forth and they made a strong case for him staying there and training professional straight away.”
Bennett was Marquette’s lone representative on our predictions for the 2016 preseason all-Big East team, and with his departure, it leaves Marquette with zero returning goals from the 2015 season. The top three scorers on the team last year were all seniors, and Bennett was one of four players that registered one goal. The other three - junior Jake Taylor, redshirt sophomore Alex McBride, and freshman Jesper Larsson - are all no longer on the Marquette roster. The team only returns three players who saw more than 1,000 minutes of action last season: defenders John Pothast and Ruben Sanchez, as well as goalkeeper Luis Barraza.
There are 12 freshmen on the roster, though. While the roster has been ravaged by turnover, there are more than enough guys who will get a fair shake at making an impression on the coaching staff. First and foremost on that list will be Luka Prpa, who has a lot in common with LB2’s playing style.