We’re less than a week away from the official start to the 2022 Marquette men’s soccer season! The Golden Eagles will get it started this coming Thursday, right alongside the start of Freshman Orientation, with a home date against #11 Tulsa.
Before we get to that, we have to do some season previewing! In a minute, we’re going to talk about the returning players on head coach Louis Bennett’s roster. The good news for MU this season is that they return all of their top four field players in terms of minutes played and 10 of the top 11. They also return all of their top five point scorers and seven of the top eight as well as the netminder that played every single minute. In short, this is mostly the same team that we saw on the field last season. Is that going to help the Golden Eagles recapture some of the magic that they had when they went to the Sweet 16 in the spring 2021 season?
That’s a question for a future article perhaps, so for now, let’s take a look at MU’s returning attackers and work our way backwards through the field.
We obviously start this off with Marquette’s active leading goal scorer and last year’s leader in goals, Lukas Sunesson. The 5’10” Swede registered six goals and an assist last season to end up with the team lead in points with 13 while starting in all 16 contests. Five of his six strikes came in Big East action, but the league’s defenses held him without even a point for the final four matches of the season. Heck, Sunesson managed just five shots after his final goal of the year. While his speed and powerful frame are a major asset at the top of the formation for the Golden Eagles, Sunesson is apparently the kind of player that can be taken away by a careful defense. We do have to note that Sunesson’s career mark of 20 goals is just seven away from the MU all-time top 10. Seven would be an all-time career best for him, and he is on a COVID bonus year of eligibility so it’s a liiiiiitle bit unfair if he gets there, but it’s definitely within shouting distance.
Sunesson’s primary scoring partner last year was Beto Soto, and the Texan is back for his junior campaign here. After earning Big East Freshman of the Year honors in the spring, Soto found the back of the net four times in the fall, the second most goals on the team, and he added three assists to end up as the only other Golden Eagle with double digit points. He started 14 times while appearing in all 16 contests and actually logged over 100 more minutes on the year than Sunesson. Soto led the team in shots last year and nearly two-thirds of his attempts came on frame. MU will need him to keep that up in 2022.
Christian Marquez is the only other returning forward with a notable fall 2021 season. He played in 14 contests and started 10 of them, recording a goal and an assist along the way. We could call it his least productive season as a Golden Eagle after three goals and an assist as a freshman and three assists in the spring 2021 season. If he can start making a bigger impact — presumably by being able to be on the field for every match for starters — like he did in 2019, that would go a long way towards making Sunesson and Soto more dangerous as well.
We round out the group with a pair of question marks. Noah Madrigal missed all of last fall’s campaign with an injury, but he logged 171 minutes in 11 matches in the springtime. Seems like he could find a role again this fall if he’s healthy. Kacper Chrapczynski redshirted during the spring 2021 season and then played 81 total minutes in four appearances in the fall a year ago. He did record an assist in MU’s 4-3 win in their second match of the season, but didn’t play again after September 10th. Most likely both guys end up playing depth roles on the team this year, but we’ve seen time and time again that Bennett likes to sub off his attackers late in first halves so there’s minutes to be earned for these guys.
This is a big spot for Marquette, as the Golden Eagles bring back three regular starters in this group... but also nothing behind them. We can debate between Edrey Caceres and Zyan Andrade as to who had a bigger impact on the Marquette offense last season. As a freshman, Caceres had three goals and three assists to end up trailing only Sunesson and Soto in the points department. Andrade was just one point behind him, getting to eight points on a goal and six assists. Going just by points, it’s advantage Caceres, but Andrade impacted seven goals to six for Caceres. Only Caceres played in every match last year and he didn’t even start every contest, so there’s definitely room to grow from all of that offensive talent this fall.
Alan Salmeron has recorded just one assist in his four seasons of action for the Golden Eagles, but don’t confuse that with a lack of talent or ability. The Cicero, Illinois, native is pretty much exactly what you want to see in a possession minded midfielder: Tough as nails, sticks his nose into every situation on the field, makes good heads up plays, sacrifices for the team, etc., etc., you get the idea. We’re getting a bonus season of eligibility here for him, and that’s going to go a long way towards generating an identity through the middle of the field for the Golden Eagles.
There’s two guys here who are going to be the rocks on which Bennett builds his defense this fall. Harvey Read appeared in all 16 contests last fall with a start in 15 of them and logged a team high 1,359 minutes. He also had two goals and an assist, which is neat and very helpful in the long run. Alex Mirsberger did start all 16 times and ended up third on the team amongst field players in minutes played while adding the only goal of the game against DePaul on October 16th after finding the right spot to be in on a corner kick by Soto. Marquette found their way into the NCAA tournament in spring 2021 by way of defense, and the Golden Eagles are going to need big performances by Read and Mirsberger to recreate some of that magic if they want to have a successful season this fall.
It seems like Marquette has a few more options to put on the field around Read and Mirsberger. Josh Hewitt played in 10 matches with nine starts last fall, missing a chunk of time from mid-September to mid-October. When you go right back into the starting lineup after missing time as a freshman, then you’re probably a candidate to start for MU a year later. Jonas Moen missed a few contests early in the season, but ended up with eight starts in 13 appearances for Marquette in 2021. If Bennett is looking for a four back setup, then you could do a lot worse than putting the 6’2” Norwegian sophomore out there and seeing what happens.
I can see a way for Jai Hsieh-Bailey to get some playing time as well. He appeared in 10 matches as a redshirt freshman last fall, and even started three times. Hsieh-Bailey only played about half as many minutes as Hewitt did even though they appeared in the same number of matches, so we’ll see what happens here. This could be a situation of “only got minutes because so many other guys were missing time,” and thus that could mean a lot of time on the bench this fall if everyone else is healthy all year long. Joey Fitzgerald and Donovan Jones were both freshman last fall, although Fitzgerald was of the redshirt variety. Each only played in two contests, with Jones getting a run of 50 minutes in the opener and then just 10 more minutes in one other game. Jones is listed as a defender/midfielder combo, so we’ll see if opportunities a little bit further up the field lead to more playing time for him this fall.
The good news is that the guy who played every single minutes for Marquette last fall is back again this year. Chandler Hallwood returns for his third season as a Golden Eagle after starting his collegiate career in Division 2. His spring 2021 was outstanding, setting a program record for goals-against average in a season and posting the second best save percentage in any season as well. Unfortunately, his numbers went way backwards — 1.54 GAA and .700 SV% — in the fall campaign, so we have to say it wasn’t just luck alone that propelled the Golden Eagles into the spring’s NCAA tournament. The question for the Golden Eagles to answer is how much of that was Hallwood’s play dropping off and how much of it was a different line of defenders in front of him? The shots faced (14.08 vs 14.19) and saves per game (4.17 vs 4.06) didn’t change all that much, but all of a sudden more goals were going in. Better looks because of a drop in properly marked attackers or slightly off netminding?
Patrick Crantz returns for his sophomore season, at least according to his current status on the roster. He didn’t play at all in the spring 2021 season, which both doesn’t count towards his eligibility and also could have been a redshirt season. It’s not a knock to say that he wasn’t able to take Hallwood’s job last year, nor is it one to say that he might not play again this fall. Either way, with Hallwood on his fourth year of playing, it’s possible that he’ll be done after this season which could lead to a big role next year for Crantz. He’ll have to make sure he uses this year to make himself as prepared as possible.