Special to the ‘Horn and Bell’ by der Fussballzuschauer.
Here in the Lehigh Valley (America’s mecca of minor league sports), the standard pre-season drill, no matter what the particular discipline, is rather well known. In order to figure out what players we will most likely be seeing on our local squad here, we must first familiarize ourselves with the training camp situation of the Philadelphia team. With the countdown to Bethlehem Steel FC’s historic kick-off at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium already well underway, the curiosity with regards to what players will be wearing the home side’s colors only continues to grow.
So then, the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer have commenced their annual pre-season match schedule with a 1-0 loss to Jacksonville Armada FC from second division North American Soccer League on what was a rather chilly and wet affair last Saturday night in northern Florida.
The Union fielded an amazing (but not so unthinkable given the actual circumstances) total of 31 players who were essentially used in a rotation scheme involving three main waves. Four of the players turning out against Jacksonville on behalf of visiting Philadelphia are currently under contract to Bethlehem Steel FC, the new United Soccer League farm team of the MLS club. Three of the BSFC players (central defender Mickey Daly, right back Ryan Richter as well as midfielder Derrick Jones) appeared with the first set of substitutes coming on a dozen minutes before the halftime whistle while the fourth BSFC player (midfielder Ken Tribbett) arrived in the 62nd minute of the match with the second major set of substitutes.
Daly is the 28-year-old left back from California State University at Los Angeles who has spent the last two years with Sacramento Republic FC, celebrating the United Soccer League title in 2014 and earning a second team all-league selection in 2015. Richter is the 26-year-old right back out of La Salle University who was the 1st round pick (# 5 overall) of the Philadelphia Union at the 2011 MLS Superdraft and appeared in a baker’s dozen MLS games for Toronto FC during the 2013 season. Jones is the promising teenager from Ghana who became the very first product of the so-called Philadelphia Union Academy to ever ink a professional contract and, in the process, also became the historic first-ever signing of Bethlehem Steel FC … Tribbett is the 23-year-old midfielder from Drexel University who spent the 2015 campaign with the Harrisburg City Islanders, the USL club which had been serving as the affiliate of the Philadelphia Union for the past six seasons.
On the whole, the Philadelphia Union had more of the possession and more attempts on goal (four to three) than their hosts in the exhibition match contested at Community First Park, but a strike ten minutes from time by Cameroon international Charles Eloundou, the 21-year-old attacker who had two assists in 11 MLS appearances for the Colorado Rapids last season, was enough to provide Jacksonville Armada FC with a late winner. Indeed, it is a funny old game sometimes. Eloundou also played in four USL games (scoring two goals) for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks last season and was briefly teammates with Bethlehem Steel FC signing Samir Badr, the 23-year-old American goalkeeper who spent the entire 2015 campaign with Colorado Springs.
The Philadelphia Union’s next engagement will be the exhibition match today (February 11th) against fellow MLS outfit Chicago Fire at the at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex in Clearwater, Florida.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Union have just acquired an experienced goalkeeper on long-term loan from Portuguese first division outfit CF Belenenses. Matt Jones, the 28-year-old Englishman who went to Sacred Heart University in Connecticut before turning pro, has started 54 Portuguese first division matches in the past two and half years but lost his first team place with CD Tondela earlier this season and has now been reassigned by the club that owns his contract (presumably so that the goalkeeper can get some games). The arrival of Jones could very well mean that one of two netminders currently under contract to the Philadelphia Union, Jamaica international Andre Blake or former La Salle standout John McCarthy, will be first choice for Bethlehem Steel FC this season.
Aside from eighteen veteran players under contract, the Philadelphia Union have six players who were chosen in the 2016 MLS Superdraft as well as four others who are ‘on trial’ (American sports translation : non-roster invitees to training camp). One has to think that some of these rookies and trialists will be are prime candidates to be sporting the colors of Bethlehem Steel FC this spring / summer, as well. After all, inquiring minds want to know.
Categories: Bethlehem Steel FC