By Jordan Shim —
International players coming overseas to play college soccer is a becoming a popular trend. More and more experienced players are coming over and raising the quality of the game.
Like All-American Tim Kubel, Liam Bennett is an international student. Bennett gained a wealth of experience playing for Leeds United in England before coming to Louisville.
Bennett was overlooked by English clubs because he didn’t fit the mold of a stereotypical English defender. Coach Ken Lolla said he sees players with similar recruiting situations as Bennett’s constantly.
“Liam as a center back is not 6-foot-2, so he’s not signed (by a club),” Lolla said. “Liam comes over here, and legitimately, is playing at a high level and still has the opportunity to play professionally if he does well.”
With the two center backs positions filled, Lolla and found a new home for Bennett: Holding midfield.
“There was a need (at the position),” Lolla said. “I saw qualities in Liam that would be very good in that role. His technical abilities for a center back is very good, which allowed him to jump into the midfield where the play is faster and spaces are tighter. Add his tenacity defensively and he’s very good in that role.”
The Cardinal defense has performed better than anticipated this season. Through two games, they have only allowed one goal and zero in the run of play. Bennett has adapted quickly and has become a reliable shield in front of the back four.
“I feel like it’s been a fairly smooth transition,” Bennett said. “It’s been a natural transition over time because I played a lot in spring and the coaches have helped me a lot. I have the discipline defensively to hold, which allows others to go forward and create.”
Adrien Cabon is the benefactor of Bennett’s said discipline. Cabon likes to run into advanced positions, creating scoring chances, which leaves the Englishman on his own. His natural instincts as a center back keep him patient, which doesn’t force the back line to rotate and leave room in behind.
A redshirt freshman, Bennett spent his first year learning Lolla’s system. But the downtime has paid dividends because he, impressively, exhibits leadership and plays with consistency, while playing a new position.
“It’s something I worked hard for, and much of that is because of the redshirt season,” Bennett said. “Whether or not if I was ready last fall, the work I put in and the work the coaches put in with us, it definitely made me ready now. It’s a big jump, and I don’t think I could’ve done it without the redshirt year.”
You can follow Jordan on Twitter @tlcjordanshim.
Courtesy photo / University of Louisville Sports Information