Marquette Wire

Midfield will be key factor in deciding men’s soccer’s fate

Midfielder+Connor+Alba+is+a+key+cog+for+Marquette.+He+scored+four+goals+and+two+assists+last+season.
Midfielder Connor Alba is a key cog for Marquette. He scored four goals and two assists last season.

Midfielder Connor Alba is a key cog for Marquette. He scored four goals and two assists last season.

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Midfielder Connor Alba is a key cog for Marquette. He scored four goals and two assists last season.

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Men’s soccer head coach Louis Bennett knows how valuable his midfield is.

“You can definitely see, as a coaching staff, what we’ve tried to do and whom we’ve tried to bring in,” Bennett said. “There’s a quiet confidence, and I mean, we are going to be very silent and not say too much and let our performance speak for itself.”

If the Golden Eagles are going to get to the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since 2014, the midfield will have to play a major role in leading them there. Reigning Conference Freshman of the year Luka Prpa, fellow sophomore Connor Alba, and redshirt senior Daniel Szczepanek form the most potent, experienced part of the team.

The midfield was Marquette’s leading point production department last season, as Prpa led the team with 26 points, followed by Alba and Szczepanek with 10 points each. While Prpa may be one of the most marked players in the conference, Marquette will also rely heavily on Szczepanek, who has played in every game since his redshirt year. Last season was his best yet as a Golden Eagle, as he scored three goals and added four assists. He believes that when firing on all cylinders, the midfield gives the Golden Eagles the extra boost they need.

“We are a powerful offensive unit,” Szczepanek said. “As soon as we win the ball, we look to go forward and go on a fast break and we can really take advantage of our offense. We’ve got a lot of fast guys, and it is one of our strengths.”

That pace was on display Friday in Lexington, Kentucky. Despite a 1-0 loss in overtime to UK, Marquette created numerous chances from the midfield and forced turnovers that led to an 11-9 shot advantage. With some established talent in place and Marquette’s style of play pinned down, Bennett knows that the system will likely change depending on who is on the pitch.

“Our system is designed to get the most out of every player,” Bennett said. “You are going to see a fast counterattack that starts in the midfield and you are going to see an excitement going forward.”

Although new to the team, recently-transferred senior Brody Kraussel is a player to watch, as he will step into a major role with the midfield. The transfer from Loyola Chicago was named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s first team last season, and was ninth in the nation with 10 assists.

“We recruit to fit a certain position, and we brought in Brody, and he likes to play a certain way,” Bennett said. “We want to make sure that everyone that we’ve brought in, especially some of our older guys, that they will adjust to us and we will adjust to them slightly.”

In addition, freshman Christian Albelo enters the squad as the highest rated recruit in program history. Albelo brings pace, precision and experience, as he played for the U.S. Youth National Team at the U-17 level.

Moving forward, Marquette’s midfield will be tested against college soccer aristocrats like Virginia, Saint Louis and New Mexico. Add that to an already loaded BIG EAST conference, and it’s easy to see why the Golden Eagles will rely heavily on their mids to pace the offense. Despite a loaded schedule, Szczepanek said the group is eager to prove itself.

“We know that we can compete with anybody … We know that if one of us has the ball, we’re all optimistic and ready to score and we can do so at any point.”

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