Bethlehem Steel FC Send First Player To Major League Soccer

der Fussballzuschauer 


In a move which should come as no surprise to those who have been following the team during pre-season training in Florida, the Philadelphia Union have announced the signing of Ken Tribbett, the 23-year-old centerback from Drexel University who was under contract to new United Soccer League club Bethlehem Steel FC, to Major League terms.


The transaction was completed just a few days after Tribbett, who spent all of last season turning out in the USL for the Harrisburg City Islanders, scored his first-ever goal for the Philadelphia Union in a competitive match, a rather well-taken free header from a corner kick in the 17th minute of the exhibition match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies from the North American Soccer League this past Saturday night. Tribbett has appeared in all four of the Union’s training games this winter, registering a total of 238 minutes in the process, and was included in Philadelphia’s starting line-up the last three matches in a row. Although Tribbett has been used strictly as a central defender thus far in pre-season training, the six-foot, two-inch native of Colorado was a holding midfielder in college and also brings this versatility to the Philadelphia Union’s table. 


And so Bethlehem Steel FC formally lose their first player to Major League Soccer before the brand new team has actually even played its very first game at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium. This development does not mean that Tribbett might not be later loaned back to BSFC at some point down the line but it does look as if the pre-season dark horse is going to a valuable addition to the Philadelphia Union, a team that said to have never enjoyed any kind of depth at centerback in its entire history. In other words, Tribbett won’t be needed any loan assignments to keep match fit as he will be kept busy enough at the MLS level.


Bethlehem Steel FC were up to fourteen players under contract or on loan from a foreign club after the recent signing of Jamaican striker Cory Burke but now Tribbett’s well deserved promotion to the Philadelphia Union means that BSFC head coach Brendan Burke only has a baker’s dozen players on his USL squad again at this point in time … the very first competitive match in the history of Bethlehem Steel FC, a pre-season training game against Syracuse University at the Union Training Center in Chester on Sunday, March 6th, is now less than two weeks away.


As for the Philadelphia Union, from what I can best understand the Major League Soccer club now have a total of 25 players under contract / on loan at present – Jones, Blake, McCarthy, Fabinho, Anderson, Marquez, Gaddis, Tribbett, Rosenberry, Yaro, Washington, Barnetta, Alberg, Edu, Noguiera, Carroll, Restrepo, Fernandes, Creavalle, Missimo, LeToux, Pontius, Ayuk, Sapong, Herbers. 


Although MLS regulations limit the total number of players on any given team’s roster to 28 (all players on the roster must be on an MLS contract), teams are by no means required to carry twenty-eight players on the books. When asked prior to the start of pre-season training in Florida if the Philadelphia Union were planning to keep the maximum number of players on their MLS roster, former United States World Cup striker and current Union sporting director Earnie Stewart reportedly stated, “Our goal is to have two good players at each position, having said that, you’re not going to fill every roster spot there is. It’s not so much the numbers game.”


And so there it is – the Philadelphia Union may very well have already set its final regular season roster. Twenty-five players would be about the right size for a typical European professional squad, particularly one that has an abundance of people who can be deployed at more than one position on the pitch. And Stewart, of course, spent fifteen years playing for clubs in the Dutch first or second divisions.


The size of the Union’s MLS squad, naturally, will directly impact the number of players Philadelphia will be sending out on loan to help fledgling Bethlehem Steel FC contest its inaugural USL season so it is important to keep tabs on such matters.


Categories: Uncategorized

4 replies

  1. See what happens when you let der Eishockeyzuschauer write the soccer articles? – Turns out that the Philadelphia Union squad is NOT finalized, as evidenced by today’s announcement that the Major League Soccer club have signed the cultured Brazil international midfielder Ilsinho … this transaction now brings the total number of players on the MLS roster to 26.

  2. Wow. Not such a great way to start. On the very same day he formally loses his “trialist” status by signing a contract for the Philadelphia Union, the perhaps not so cultured Brazil international midfielder Ilsinho receives his marching orders after seeing his second yellow card in the first half of tonight’s exhibition game against MLS rival New York Red Bulls …

    … Ilsinho was sent off just a few minutes before the break but, truth be told, the dude was reckless and wild with his challenges all night long and could very well have easily been sent off five minutes earlier, too.

  3. Interesting stuff, d.F., thanks. It also occurs to me that the Union may also not need to carry anywhere near the maximum players because the Steel side will be right there in Chester practicing alongside, and they can always pilfer (read: sign to MLS) a player if they need a call-up.

    It seems, then, that the most efficient thing financially would be to have more USL players and fewer MLS players, as the MLS guys likely make more money.

    On the other hand, if one is trying to win games, both on the MLS side as well as USL (PLEASE let it be so) then having more MLS players and loaning them down (and having them available for injury or depth) would be the more intelligent thing to do to keep the talent level high on both sides.

    As a neophyte observer here, it seems that’s just what the Union are up to. I hope it works. I’m also looking forward to seeing what kind of kit they come up with…

    • Note to Kram :

      I definitely rather curious to see just exactly what this stated policy of “close cooperation” between the Philadelphia Union and Bethlehem Steel FC actually turns out to be.

      As you already know, a follow-up to the “Union Reserve, and the Steel Side” article is in the works and will analyze how many players the three Major League Soccer clubs (Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers) who wholly owned and operated reserve teams in the United Soccer League actually sent out on loan, how many games / starts, minutes played, etc.

      Without giving away the meat and potatoes of the upcoming piece, let’s just say that USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders did not get anywhere near the amount of ‘assistance’ from the Philadelphia Union that, for example, New York Red Bulls II got from their parent club.

      The one thing we do NOT know is what the Philadelphia Union’s actual plans are for BSFC. And, yes, it certainly is a most valid question. Are Bethlehem Steel FC going to be concerned about getting results or will we be ‘treated’ to yet another Philly sports organization constantly lecturing us losers here in the minors about “player development” (all the while our local team beats over the head with a hammer for every last nickel and dime in our pocket)?

      I still can’t believe the Environmental Protection Agency are not after the IronPigs and Phantoms for the amount of garbage they chronically dump in the Lehigh Valley at the Park and Palace of Sport, respectively … but I digress.

      Getting back to soccer, one thing is certain and that is if the Philadelphia Union were serious when they said that the reserve team’s style of play will strongly resemble, if not downright copy, that of the MLS club, then that mean’s Bethlehem Steel will be utilizing a 4-2-3-1 formation.

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