Meet junior defenseman Billy Von Reuden, and sophomore midfielder/forwards Anthony Collaizzi and Sam Etim; all teammates with Marquette's Men's Soccer program, and now all teammates with the Chicago Fire's Super-20 developmental league team.
The Chicago Fire soccer club owns and operates three teams. Most are only aware of the MLS team, which competes at the highest level of American professional soccer. However, the Fire also own two developmental league teams. The Super-20 team features some of the most talented 17-to-20 year-old soccer players in the nation, and it is considered a privilege to be invited to play with them.
Following their strong personal performances in the 2007 season, and a good recommendation from Coach Louis Bennett, all three Golden Eagles players were asked to join the club for the summer, and each happily accepted the offer.
"The Chicago Fire Super-20 coach [Larry Sunderland] contacted us and asked if we were interested in playing for the team this summer, and of course we jumped at the opportunity," said Collaizzi.
And why wouldn't they? Take a look at the track record of the team, which has only been in existence for a year.
- 2007 Undefeated Regular Season (one of only 4 teams out of 53 in North America to do so)
- North American Championship Runner-Up
- Two players named to the Super-20 All-North American team
- North America Super-20 Coach of the Year (Larry Sunderland)
This is not your average summer league team. This is a legitimate first step toward playing soccer at the professional level, and all three Marquette athletes have that ambition. The formula is simple: play well, get noticed, and one day move up to the first team where an MLS contract awaits.
"[I want to] play with the best players possible, and plant a seed in hopes of becoming pro in a year or two," said Von Reuden.
But getting noticed is not as easy as it sounds when you are surrounded by some of the best talent in North America. Etim explained that, "I really didn't know what to expect when I first agreed to play. But when I got there, I recognized a lot of the players, and I knew that the skill level was going to be high."
With the success and prestige of the Chicago Fire organization over the last ten years, including numerous trips deep into the MLS playoffs and an MLS Cup championship in 1998, that comes as no surprise.
The three teammates will work to hone their personal skills while playing in Chicago for the summer, and hopefully take a few of the lessons they learn back to Milwaukee. Awaiting them upon their return will be a team looking to take the next step in the Big East Conference. They will compete with the Fire's Super-20 team right up until they have to report to campus on August 1. And although they are enjoying their time with the Fire, they know there is much work to be done down at Valley Fields.
Coming off of a 2-14-4 overall record last year, no one part of Marquette's mens program looks to be content with steady improvement. With a talented freshman class joining the team, and the rest of the roster getting a year older, Coach Bennett and the boys know they are close to ending their struggles.
"In all college sports, maturity and experience are huge," said Bennett. "The more mature you are as a team, the more likely you are to turn that corner. There will come a time with this team when we'll know that we have that capability. Going forward, their ability to perform consistently and their ability to keep up that level of consistency is very important."
Marquette's men's soccer team will kick off the exhibition season with their annual Blue vs. Gold scrimmage on August 16, and shortly thereafter begin the regular season on Sept. 1 against Bryant University.
Brian Henry is a senior majoring in Broadcast and Electronic Communications. He is also the Sports Director of Marquette Radio.