Louis Bennett II forgoes senior season to play in Cyprus
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Marquette soccer has a big hole to fill in 2016, as midfielder Louis Bennett II is forgoing his senior year of eligibility to turn pro. He’s signed a three-year deal with Anorthosis Famagusta FC, which plays in the top-tier league in Cyprus.
“He felt he had leftover business at Marquette,” said Marquette head coach and Bennett II’s father Louis Bennett. “But then he was also presented with an opportunity to go straight into a first team, … straight into a 20-man squad. If he did well in their own league, then he’d have a pathway into Europe.”
With the move, Marquette has now lost 100 percent of its scoring from 2015. Kelmend Islami (eight goals), C. Nortey (four) and David Selvaggi (four) graduated. Jesper Larsson (one) transferred to UNC-Greensboro, and Alex McBride (one) and Jake Taylor (one) are no longer with the program.
Bennett II was a three-year starter for the Golden Eagles. He was the highest-ranked recruit to commit to Marquette in program history, and it showed. He was the team’s Freshman of the Year in 2013 and led the team in assists in 2014. He’s a two-time All-Big East member, making it on the first and second team once each.
Bennett scored nine goals and 14 assists in 55 games as a Golden Eagle. He had a down year offensively in his final season at Marquette, scoring his lone goal in the team’s 1-1 draw with cross-town rival UW-Milwaukee.
He’s the second Marquette player in three years to leave the program early to go pro. Coco Navarro left the team after the 2014 season to sign with Real Monarchs, the USL Pro affiliate of Real Salt Lake.
Anorthosis is one of the most successful clubs in Cypriot soccer. They’ve won 13 titles, most recently in 2008. It’s a team that has experience playing in the Champions League and the Europa League and is also one of the more mature rosters you can find in Europe. They have a reputation of developing players to sell to larger programs during the transfer window.
“Just these past few weeks they sold a young player to the Championship in England,” Bennett said. “Europe, it’s almost like the stock market of soccer players.”
Bennett II played for the team on a trial this summer after spending the beginning of the break with the Chicago Fire and training with Sporting Kansas City of the MLS. He was offered a contract following the stint which included the possibility of plenty of playing time.
“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.”
Although it’s tough for Bennett to see his son go so far away, he understands what the process is like. In 1984 he flew over the Atlantic from England to begin his indoor professional career with the Milwaukee Wave.
“I just came the other way,” Bennett said. “In fact, he’s going to a much better situation. No offense to the clubs that I played for, but at the time I came to the United States there was no outdoor professional soccer.”
Now it’s all about finding a way to watch his son’s games online.
The loss of Bennett II could lead to an earlier starting role for incoming freshman Luka Prpa, another highly-touted player who comes from a similar mold.
“He is extremely comfortable with the ball and can play under pressure,” Top Drawer Soccer reporter J.R. Eskilson told the Marquette Wire in March. “He slices apart defenses with his passing ability and understanding of angles to penetrate the defense with one move. He has a great engine and covers a ton of ground throughout the game.”
Also on the roster at midfield is Ruben Sanchez, Martin Alba, Ben Tweedie, Cade Dombrowski, Jordan Palmer and Daniel Szczepanek, though Szczepanek has spent most of his Marquette career at forward.