We’ve already taken a look at the returning players that Marquette men’s soccer will rely on for veteran presence and experience with head coach Louis Bennett’s system in 2017. Now we turn our attention to the new guys for this season, and buckle up, because we’re going to be here for a while. There are six freshman (that’s a reasonable amount) and four transfers (that’s kind of a lot) to total 10 new guys (that’s definitely a lot) on the roster. Let’s start with those transfers, as they’ve already shown themselves to be key components of how Marquette plays this year.
We’ll start with Steffen Böhm, who played 171 of Marquette 180 exhibition match minutes while getting the start in both games. It seems apparent that Bennett is putting the former Florida International Panther straight into the lineup as one of his most trusted defenders. Böhm made 21 appearances for FIU in two seasons, including 17 starts, and helped push the team to consecutive Conference USA tournament title game appearances as well as an NCAA tournament appearance in 2015. If Böhm is going to play 90 minutes a night for Marquette, the 6’2” German is going to go sailing past his previous career high in minutes played.
Brody Kraussel also started both exhibition games for Marquette, tallying 60 minutes of action in the first one where Louis Bennett dug deeper into the bench, and then going the full 90 against Loyola-Chicago. He earned an assist against the Ramblers when Manuel Cukaj timed a header perfectly with Kraussel’s cross to score the lone goal of the match. It’s kind of funny in a way, as Kraussel left Loyola to come to Marquette. As a Rambler, Kraussel made 57 appearances and was a key part of their attack from day one. The midfielder/forward from Muskego totaled five goals and 16 assists in his three years with Loyola (yes, he’s only at Marquette for 2017), which included ranking ninth in the country with 10 helpers last year.
Kraussel was one of two players that transferred to Marquette at the fall/winter semester break, with Grant Owens as the other. Owens comes to Marquette after two active seasons with Saint Louis, making him a redshirt junior this year. He made 10 appearances in 2015, including two starts, and then followed that up with seven starts while getting into all 18 of SLU’s matches. As a sophomore, he only played 765 minutes, but still found time for a goal and two assists. One of his two assists came in SLU’s upset over #5 Wake Forest last season. Owens came off the bench for significant minutes against Green Bay and started against Loyola, so he’s got the coaching staff’s eye as a reliable cog.
We still don’t quite know what to make of Marquette’s fourth and final transfer. Jason Davis is a graduate student at MU this year, playing his only year of collegiate soccer in the U.S. after earning an engineering degree from Loughborough University in the U.K. He only was announced as part of the program on August 4th, so it’s not surprising that he didn’t play in either exhibition match. At 6’5” and 225 pounds, Davis is easily the biggest guy on the team and as a forward, he could end up being a lethal component of Marquette’s offense. However, we’ll have to wait and see if he can get on the field for the Golden Eagles.
Two of the rookies played in both exhibition matches for Marquette. Manuel Cukaj appears to have earned himself a permanent spot in the starting 11 with 82 and 86 minute outings in the two contests, not to mention the lone goal in MU’s 1-0 win over Loyola-Chicago. Hailing from Mannheim in Germany, Cukaj spent time with various youth sides of Bundesliga teams, including a tenure with FC Astoria Walldorf since 2015. In his final season with the U-23 program there, he had 13 starts in 21 matches. Tode Atlija didn’t have that far to travel to Marquette, as he attended Franklin High School in the Milwaukee suburbs. However, he did play with FK Vozdovac in Serbia during the 2015-16 season, so he’s already used to the standard of play in the Serbian SuperLiga. Atlija started and played 44 minutes against Green Bay, registering one shot along the way, and then came off the bench for Grant Owens for 14 minutes against Loyola.
Brendan Skinner and Zac Wegner both played in the Green Bay match, but did not see the field against Loyola. Skinner, a defender from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, started and played 80 minutes on the back line against the Phoenix, and at 6’4” and 210 pounds, you can see why the coaching staff thinks he can contribute immediately. Skinner came up through the Vancouver Whitecaps youth program at the U-14, U-16, and U-18 levels and also has experience with Canada’s U-18 national team. Wegner, who played 20 minutes off the bench against UWGB, is more of a local product, coming to Marquette after graduating from Arrowhead High School. The 5’10” midfielder set a school record as a senior with 32 assists in a season, and his 32 goals to go with that wasn’t anything to laugh about, either. Arrowhead advanced to the state title game during Wegner’s junior season, so he knows a thing or two about high pressure situations.
That leaves us with Christian Albelo and Roland Conway, neither of whom appeared in the exhibition matches. Both men have fascinating stories in their lives already, as Conway was born in Jamaica, but adopted shortly after his fourth birthday. He focused on club soccer for his first two years at Brookfield East High School in the Milwaukee suburbs before joining the school team and earning all-conference and all-area honors. He’s listed as a midfielder, but has a reputation as a defensive minded player.
Albelo has Alexandria, Virginia listed as his hometown on the roster, but he attended high school in Wiesbaden in Germany thanks to his family’s military service. He has youth team experience with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and FC Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga, and he also spent time as a part of the youth national team pools for the United States. Officially, Albelo is a freshman, but he’s a year older than your normal freshmen thanks to a year with Swope Park Rangers, the USL team affiliated with Sporting KC. He was on an amateur contract there, but also never played in a match. Albelo is the highest ranked recruit in Marquette program history, sitting at #17 in the Class of 2016 rankings by Top Drawer Soccer. For comparison’s sake, Luka Prpa, Marquette’s leading scorer in 2016, was #36 in the same recruiting rankings. Given all of that, it is kind of surprising that Albelo didn’t see the pitch in the exhibition games. However, it’s a long season, so we’ll see what happens as things progress.