The Marquette men’s soccer team has played two games with defender Michael Alfano and midfielder Calum Mallace back from injury — but both games brought losses, dropping the team’s record to 1-4.
The Milwaukee Cup remained with Wisconsin-Milwaukee Friday night as the Panthers downed Marquette 2-1. Then, Sunday, the Golden Eagles fell to Wright State 2-1.
When asked how the return of his two seniors has affected the team’s play, coach Louis Bennett said, “Not very well. We’ve lost both games.”
Mallace and Alfano both missed the first three games of the season, a stretch over which Marquette went 1-2.
Mallace played all 90 minutes in each match on Friday and Sunday. Alfano played 52 minutes Sunday and 45 minutes Friday.
“Alfano is obviously not fully fit,” Bennett said. “I felt for him (Sunday) because he just couldn’t move. He was back but was coming straight off of the training table. I think on Friday he was on adrenaline, and (Sunday) the tank was tapped out.”
Sophomore defender Paul Dillon said he did notice “more of a fight” with Alfano and Mallace on the field.
“Their intensity on the field was a huge presence. There was a lot of familiarity as well,” Dillon said.
Mallace said his performance over the weekend was “not the best” and that he needs to get back into shape.
“I came back from an injury and jumped right back into it. I had one training session before (Friday’s game) and that was it,” Mallace said. “I’m healthy now, but I’m not as fit as I was. I’m not as fit as I could be.”
By the end of the week Mallace expects to be back in the shape he was last year.
“Calum’s not the Calum we know,” Bennett said. “He’s probably two or three games away before he gets match-fit. With the injury he’s going to take time. But Mallace is Mallace. He’s a good player now on the field.”
On Friday and Sunday Mallace played out of position as he spent some time at central defender – helping fill the large void left there by freshman defender Axel Sjoberg’s broken right foot, which will keep him out into October.
Playing defender isn’t totally new for Mallace, as he spent time there while playing with MLS’s Chicago Fire development team over the summer. But he acknowledged it is different.
“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. I’ve played soccer my entire life and understand all positions, even though I’ve never played all positions on the field before,” Mallace said. “I’ve played in the middle my whole life. So it wasn’t too difficult of a transition.”
To make matters worse, sophomore defender Eric Pothast left the match Sunday with a head injury and his return date is unknown. It potentially sets up another weekend of matches with Mallace as a central defender, as Pothast, Sjoberg and senior defender Paul Monson possibly out. Bennett said the position may have to become a regularity for Mallace.
“I would love to put (Mallace) forward. But now we’ve, potentially, got two starting central defenders out,” Bennett said. “It’s not a height thing, it’s an experience thing. We don’t have anybody else right now that has had experience playing central defender. Until Alfano is fully fit, it’s too big of a task to have him run on his own. So we need more experience back there because we don’t want to be giving goals away.”