Steel on the Field: Fifth Bethlehem Player Appears in Union Preseason Game

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Special to the Horn and Bell by der Fussballzuschauer.


“Take that look of worry

I’m an ordinary man

They don’t tell me nothing
So I find out all I can”
– Phil Collins
Continuing to track pre-season training camp developments from Florida so as to better understand what players will be turning out at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium this coming spring, it must be reported that the Philadelphia Union had a disappointing result against the Chicago Fire in a clash of two of Major League Soccer’s bottom of the barrel teams on Thursday afternoon. Although Philadelphia did field a largely experimental Startelf which included two picks fresh from the 2016 MLS Superdraft as well as a player who is currently under contract to new United Soccer League club Bethlehem Steel FC; the simple fact of the matter is that Chicago (the absolute worst side in the entire 20-team MLS circuit last season) were undoubtedly treating the Testspiel in similar fashion. Thanks in part to a pair of goals from Ghana international striker David Accam, the Fire established a 3-1 lead on the hour and coasted home to a 4-2 triumph at the Joe DiMaggio Complex.
In direct contrast to the previous exhibition against Jacksonville Armada FC from the North America Soccer League (a match which saw Philadelphia use the whopping total of 31 players), the Union only sent on nine substitutes (a figure far more in line with what one might expect from a traditional pre-season friendly) in one giant wave; the Philadelphia Union also used a different formation in the contest against the Chicago Fire, opting for a five-man midfield with a lone attacker up front as compared to the 4-4-2 alignment deployed last Saturday night.
(Editor’s note:  This is interesting.  I thought I had read that the Union side would be sporting a 4-3-3 this season.  Something to watch here, as well as how the Steel eventually line up.)
Bethlehem Steel FC’s new signing Ken Tribbett appeared in the starting line-up against Chicago as one of two central defenders for Philadelphia. The versatile 23-year-old utility player from Drexel University did extremely well to clear a ball off the line in the 58th minute and briefly preserve the Union’s one-goal deficit at the time. All this after the influential Accam, who had already netted twice in the match and would later add an assist, had gone around Jamaica international goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Another of BSFC’s new signings, Nigerian midfielder Bolu Akinyode, was among the throng of nine replacements the Philadelphia Union summoned from the bench after the Chicago Fire scored their third in the 60th minute. The 21-year-old defensive midfielder out of Seton Hall University was not among the thirty-one players used by the Union against the NASL’s Jacksonville Armada FC last weekend. Last season, Akinyode made 20 appearances and scored one goal in the USL for New York Red Bulls II, a side which finished fourth in the 12-team Eastern Conference.
Akinyode becomes the fifth player under contract to Bethlehem Steel FC to have appeared either of the Philadelphia Union’s two pre-season exhibition games thus far this winter while Tribbett is the only BSFC player to have appeared in both. Altogether, the Union have used a total of 33 players in the two training games against Jacksonville and Chicago. Half a dozen are players who were recently chosen in the 2016 MLS Superdraft and another four players are on a tryout basis at present.
According to Major League Soccer rules, the Philadelphia Union may keep up to 28 players on their regular season roster at any given time and any those same twenty-eight players on the full squad roster are eligible to be in uniform for any given MLS game. For salary cap purposes only, the last eight roster spots on the full squad are reserved for so-called “Supplemental Roster” players and do not count against an MLS team’s budget. This particular detail, of course, has nothing to do with Bethlehem Steel FC but the following does :
“Transfers & Loans” … “an MLS player may be transferred or loaned at any time to a club outside the League (subject to the club’s Federation’s transfer window), and subject to the consent of the player.”
Kram wants to know if any of the ten Philadelphia Union players who are not in uniform for any given MLS game can be loaned to a club outside the league such as, say, Bethlehem Steel FC just in time for any given USL game … and so do I!
(Editor’s note:  Yeah, it shall be interesting to see.  Because it sound like the entire soccer operation will be based in Chester, and the Union will always be away when the Steel side is home (save once), if 18 players travel with the Union, that leaves another 10 with no match to play.  Might some of them be on the bus to Lehigh?  What are the limits and transfer difficulties?  These questions we’re still working on…)

Categories: Bethlehem Steel FC


1 reply

  1. Note To Kram :

    There are no transfer regulations to deal with whatsoever because it is a loan arrangement so the bottom line is, yes, any of the 28 players on the Philadelphia Union’s MLS roster are, in theory, eligible to be farmed out to Bethlehem Steel FC at any given time. The questions of how many Union players will be assigned to ‘ keep match fit’ by turning out in the USL and how often that will happen will be addressed in a separate blog post coming soon. The party line being repeated over and over again is that the Philadelphia Union plan to have a ‘close working relationship’ with BSFC so we’ll just have to wait and see how similar reality resembles rhetoric.

    The boys at Brotherly Love have a piece talking about how only players under MLS contract can actual appear in an MLS regular season game but I liken the reality of the situation between the Philadelphia Union and Bethlehem Steel FC to what routinely occurs in baseball. If the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs or even the AA Reading Phillies have a guy who is not on the actual 40-man roster but the Philadelphia Phillies really want to call that player up, then that player’s minor league agreement will simply be torn up. The player will then sign a new Major League contract and, presto, he is now eligible to be promoted.

    Oddly enough, the Utica Comets, tonight’s opponents for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, have a guy (Mike Zalewski) who was on a standard minor league only contract but the Vancouver Canucks wanted to promote him a few weeks ago and so they simply nullified the minor league only deal and gave the guy a new two-way NHL agreement.

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