Outside of John Pothast, there wasn’t a lot that was very exciting about the returning players for Marquette men’s soccer. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you lose every single goal scored by the 2015 team to a combination of graduation, transfer, and a professional contract.
With 14 returning players and 13 brand new players, odds are that more than a couple of the new guys are going to have to play valuable roles for the Golden Eagles this season. In fact, given the lack of experience in the returning crew, the faster the new guys start picking up the slack, the better everyone’s experience is going to be, both for this season and for the future of the program.
Let’s start with the three guys who earned themselves rankings according to either IMG Academy or Top Drawer Soccer, although I get the impression that we might not see one of them this season.....
#14 - Midfielder - 5’10" - Wind Lake, WI
Ranked #36 in the class of 2016 by IMG Academy and declared the best midfielder in the Midwest, Prpa (pronounced per-pa) may be getting pushed into a more prominent role than originally expected for this team. Sure, you’d like to think that a top 40 recruit should be expected to take on a pretty sizable role anyway, right? But since he already drew comparisons to Louis Bennett II, now gone to Cyprus with a pro contract, it stands to reason that Prpa will just step into the vacancy left behind by Bennett.
Prpa has seen call-ups to the U.S. junior national teams as part of U14, U15, and U17 squads, and he’s had experience with both the Olympic Development program and the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program. Prpa has been attending IMG Academy in Florida after finishing his freshman year at Muskego (WI) High School, and he’s had the opportunity to train with a British Premier League club when he had a pair of stints with Swansea City in both 2012 and 2015.
As far as his experience so far with Marquette, Prpa went straight into the starting lineup for the Golden Eagles. He played all of the starters’ half of the Wright State exhibition and all 110 minutes of the exhibition vs Detroit. Prpa only played 73 minutes against Nebraska-Omaha, but he also managed MU’s only goal in the 56th minute.
#24 - Midfielder - 5’4" - Whitefish Bay, WI
Good news: Palmer slipped just barely into the IMG Academy top 150 for the class of 2016 at #147.
Bad news: Palmer has yet to step on the field for Marquette.
Now, this might just be a case of a little too much talent in one section of the field. Ruben Sanchez is going to get a lineup spot in the defensive field, and Luka Prpa has established himself on the offensive side. That leaves Martin Alba, Ben Tweedie, and Daniel Szczepanek looking for minutes, and Bennett is already comfortable and familiar with those guys. If Palmer’s just getting caught in a hustle and redshirting this year, that’s fine. If Palmer’s injured, then that’s probably fine, too, as that’ll probably lead to a redshirt for him. If Bennett doesn’t see how he fits into the lineup.... well, that’s a problem.
Palmer led Whitefish Bay to a 23-2-1 record and a Wisconsin Division 2 state championship in 2015, and since nothing in his Marquette bio mentions his goals or assists, I’m going to presume he was more of a defensive player. He didn’t get that national ranking on accident, though, so hopefully he’ll be a contributing member of the team at some point in the not-distant future.
UPDATE: On Tuesday, August 23, Jack Goods of the Marquette Wire reported that both Jordan Palmer and Jordan Webb are suffering from injuries that will keep them out until at least October. From a certain point of view, that's good news, as it means the only thing that's been keeping both men off the field has been their injuries and not anything about how they're fitting into the MU structure.
#7 - Defender - 5’11" - Streamwood, IL
If, based on their experience in MU’s exhibition games, you had asked me to pick between Seagrist and Palmer as to who was the top 150 recruit and who was merely #15 in Top Drawer Soccer’s Midwest regional rankings, I’m pretty sure I would have told you Seagrist was the nationally rated recruit. As you can tell from the last section, that’s not the case. Seagrist has started all three of the exhibition matches for Bennett, going the full 110 minutes against Detroit. He didn’t play any high school soccer, but he did serve as team captain for Sockers FC for two years, and barring some kind of weirdo change, I’d expect to see him out there on the back line on Friday night.
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Onwards then, to the gents who have made the biggest impact in the exhibition schedule, and that means there’s only one place to start.
#17 - Forward - 6’1" - Rheinfelden, Germany
FOUR GOALS AGAINST DETROIT.
FOUR OF THEM.
Look, I realize that scoring four goals in 40 minutes is probably more of an indictment of the defense than something positive about the offense. When it’s one player slotting home all four goals, though... well, that’s something out of the ordinary. When I watched Maertins play for the first 45 minutes against Wright State, it was clear that I was looking at a player who was light on his feet, but confident in his abilities both in traffic and in space. At 6’1", he’s got size that other teams might not see in opposing strikers on a regular basis, or at the very least, size at striker that Marquette has not had over the past few years.
While Maertins is from Germany, he played for FC Basel in Switzerland. That’s not as crazy as it sounds, as Basel is only a 30 minute train ride from Rheinfelden. He played for Basel for four years, winning a Swiss title and two Swiss Cups in that timeframe.
#11 - Forward - 5’7" - Waukesha, WI
Alba appeared in the starting lineup for each of Marquette’s three exhibition matches, so it’s clear that Bennett is going to give him a chance to make things happen. He’s listed as a forward, but he only registered one assist in the three pre-season contests, and he’s yet to take a shot.
Alba attended Catholic Memorial High School, but didn’t play soccer for the Crusaders. Instead, he opted to spend his time with the SC Waukesha club squad for three seasons before moving on to the Chicago Fire Academy. SC Waukesha won two state titles in his three years with them, and Alba got to go to Qatar with the Fire Academy team for the Al Kass International tournament.
Anton von Hofacker
#18 - Defender - 6’6" - Bergen, Norway
If you squint a little bit, you can see 6’7" Swede Axel Sjoberg out there when von Hofacker takes the field. The comparison isn’t quite fair, really. Sjoberg was much more physically imposing from the get-go, even though there’s only one inch of difference between the two, and really, even the Nordic thing isn’t really a connection. Sjoberg was a Swedish native, while von Hofacker was born in Germany before moving to Norway when he was very young.
He was one of the 2nd half subs in the opening exhibition, but played 80 minutes against Detroit before getting the start and playing the full 90 against Nebraska-Omaha. His immediate impact probably shouldn’t be that surprising, as he was the captain of the Åsane U16 team that he came up with and was named Player of the Year at the end of the season.
#21 - Defender - 5’9" - Nicosia, Cyprus
Hailing from the same island where Louis Bennett II is going to ply his trade as a professional, Andreou has appeared in all three of the exhibition games for the Golden Eagles. He started the first one, then came off the bench for the last two. Either way, it seems clear he’s earned some favor with the elder Bennett. Andreou played for AC Omonoia Nicosia as a youngster in Cyprus, and was the captain of the team starting out at the U13 level all the way up to when he advanced to the U21 team. He also recently did a stint in the Cypriot army, which was likely more physically challenging than anything he’ll face on the soccer field this season.
#23 - Forward - 5’9" - Alcala de Henares, Spain
Núñez is a unique case for Marquette. This will be his first year with the Golden Eagles and first year in college, but because of his experience playing for RSD Alcala, he will have to forfeit a year of NCAA eligibility and is listed as a sophomore.
So, that’s the bad news there. The good news is that Núñez tallied 25 goals and 25 assists for RSD Alcala’s U19 team in just 58 games. His play with the U19 squad earned him a call up to Alcala’s first team, which was playing in the fourth tier of the Spanish football association. Núñez didn’t play in the first exhibition match for Marquette, but played at least 50 minutes in the next two matches. With no goal scorers returning from last year’s team, anyone who can contribute creativity in the offensive third will be more than welcome.
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That’s a lot of guys! And there’s still more! This last handful of players haven’t contributed much, if anything, to the exhibition play on the pitch, but they’ll be finding ways to chip in during practice and match prep this season. In alphabetical order, then....
#25 - Midfielder - 6’2" - Hales Corner, WI
Dombrowski made a substitute appearance in MU’s first exhibition match, but hasn’t played since. He scored 17 goals and 31 assists for Whitnall High School as a senior while leading the team to a school best 20-3 record. He has five older brothers who all played collegiate soccer for Bennett back when Marquette’s head coach was patrolling the sidelines over at UW-Milwaukee.
#29 - Defender - 5’9" - Winnetka, IL
Gallo was a part of the same Chicago Magic Academy team that won a U17 title as fellow freshman Luka Prpa. Gallo is a unique player, as he tied a New Trier school record with 23 goals plus 14 assists as a freshman before moving to the back line. Even from a defensive position, Gallo still recorded seven goals and nine assists as a senior.
#31 - Goalkeeper - 6’2" - Cambridge, WI
Between Luis Barraza and Mac Wheeler ahead of him on the depth chart, I seriously doubt we’ll see Heim between the pipes this season. That's fine, though. With Wheeler wrapping up his collegiate career after this season, Heim's main goal for this season should be to focus on getting ready to push Barraza in 2017. He lettered in soccer all four years at Cambridge High School, and was on the all-conference First Team as both a junior and senior.
#13 - Forward - 6’2" - Waukesha, WI
Jende comes to Marquette as Pewaukee High School’s all time leading scorer, setting records in both goals (90) and assists (45). 65 of those goals came in his last two years, split nearly perfectly down the middle with a single season record 33 goals as a junior.
#26 - Defender - 6’0" - Cedar Rapids, IA
Webb won five state titles during his prep career: one with Linn-Mar High School as a junior, and four with Cedar River SA, his club team. CRSA also made it to an Olympic Development Program national tournament championship game during Webb’s tenure.