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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Bennett’s recruiting history runs deep with former roommate’s club soccer program

Graphic made by John Leuzzi. (Photos courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

If one were to drive approximately 105 miles down I-94 east from the heart of Marquette University’s campus, then continue on IL-43 South Harlem Avenue, they would eventually arrive at a vast concrete parking lot and long red-tone brick building. Large royal blue letters that form the words “SeatGeek Stadium” hang above the entrances.

The building and surrounding soccer fields were once the stomping grounds for Marquette men’s soccer’s newest addition to its defensive line, first-years Diegoarmando Alvarado and Kyle Bebej.

Formed July 13, 2007 by the Chicago Fire Football Club, the Chicago Fire Academy is known to be an “elite player development initiative” that is “designed to identify and develop the best young talent within the Chicagoland area,”  as stated in the initial Chicago Fire FC press release. 

In the 15 years since that press release, Chicago Fire Academy has done just that: developed the best young talent, and Marquette has reaped the benefits from the initiative as evidenced by not only Alvarado and Bebej.

“In the recruiting process there’s a big emphasis on how a lot of people can find talent, but it’s a character and personality that makes a great player. At Marquette, we find people that have got great character,” Marquette head coach Louis Bennett said. “Obviously if you look at programs that play at the highest youth level in the country, you’re more likely to find players that have been under pressure.”

Bebej and Alvarado are not the first Golden Eagles by the way of Chicago Fire Academy, as current senior midfielder Alan Salmeron and senior forward Christian Marquez both played for the academy.

Bennett said the relationship between Marquette and CFA  has deep roots.

“Our relationship has always been a close one. It started off because two of the first directors (of Chicago Fire Academy) were both roommates of mine, so I had a personal connection with them,” Bennett said. “That was 10 or 15 years ago, and obviously as the personnel has changed, and now a lot of their coaches come up and watch us (Marquette) play, so it’s become a two-way street relationship.”

Beyond the relationship between the two programs, there is also a strong relationship between Bebej and Alvarado.

“We’ve been teammates for about seven years at Chicago Fire,” Alvarado said. Just recently, Alvarado and Bebej talked about how they will be side by side for the years to come. “It really is crazy that we ended up at the same college, that we get to pursue our goals together.”

With an established history as teammates, Bennett said the acclimation period to collegiate play was a smooth one for Bebej and Alvarado. “At Marquette, it’s that pursuit of excellence and lack of entitlement, which they understood from their previous training.”

Also from their previous training as teammates, Bebej and Alvarado developed the skill of effective communication.

“Whenever you’re playing soccer, chemistry between your teammates is really important. So just knowing him (Alvarado) for that long, we already have chemistry. We’re always on the same page on the field,” Bebej said.

Bebej and Alvarado both bring their own style to the field.

“I’m not the biggest, most intimidating player on the field. I’m pretty short, so my strengths are my soccer IQ and being technical on the ball,” Alvarado said.

As for Bebej, his mindset and knowledge of the game set him apart. “It comes from the willingness to work and learn,” Bebej said.

Bennett praises both players for their strong determination. He said he has been impressed by Bebej’s personal goals.

“Every day he comes to work. He loves it. It’s the best kind of work when it’s your sport. He shows that desire and that drive, he really wants to be here,” Bennett said. “His brother was on the championship runner-up team that beat us (Marquette) in the quarter-finals of NCAA tournament in the past, so Bebej decided to come here (Marquette) so he could forge his own path.”

Just like Bebej, Bennett recognizes the intense work that Alvarado displays day in and day out.

“Diego didn’t have to tell us what he would do or what he could do. He told us what he wanted to do better. That’s a big thing for someone to say because not a lot people are confident enough to say and realize what they want to improve on,” Bennett said.

Three matches into the 2022 season, Alvarado has started each game, totaling 157 minutes. Bebej, on the other hand, has made an appearance in two of the three games, at most clocking in 20 minutes against Utah Tech, where the Golden Eagles won 6-1.

One factor, Alvarado said, that has led to both first-years’ early success at Marquette is credited to the similarity of values shared by both CFA and Marquette.

Despite being roughly 105 miles apart, the two share close missions. Marquette puts much significance into the Jesuit concept of “cura personalis,” which means “to care for the whole person.” CFA’s philosophy is noted as “the principle of the developing the whole player, within a stable and holistic environment.” The connection is evident to both Bebej and Alvarado.

“Both organizations preach similar things. Both want you to be the best version of yourself, and neither want you to be content with where you are at,” Alvarado said. “Fire wants you to leave as a better person both on and off the field, and I know that is something Marquette emphasizes too.”

As for the style of play, Bebej shared how both programs play “real football.” Yet a player cannot rely on mere talent alone.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, that’s what both places make known,” Bebej said.

Though Bennett said the process of recruitment is always changing and developing, the main objective to find well-rounded players is constant.

“The talent is pretty much obvious, but it’s the ability to be a great college player. It’s personality, it’s character, and it’s tough to find, yet I believe we (Marquette) have,” Bennett said.

This article was written by Ava Mares. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @avamaresMU. 

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