‘Wow – the Philadelphia Union really seem bent on getting their new farm club Bethlehem Steel FC off to a good start in the United Soccer League!’
This was my initial reaction upon learning that no fewer than seven Major League Soccer players had turned up on the Bethlehem Steel FC’s roster that was finally posted at the USL’s official website on Thursday. Now, of course, it just so happened that the Union did not have an MLS game to play this weekend, so it was not all that hard for Philadelphia to temporarily part with a few players including the trio – goalkeeper John McCarthy, midfielder Leo Fernandes and striker Fabian Herbers – who have all been regular members of their 18-man squad that has been dressing in uniform each week. On the other hand, especially considering the fact that both Fernandes (two starts, 163 minutes) and Herbers (12 minutes) have appeared in each of the Union’s first three MLS games this season and are clearly regular performers in the first team at the moment, the technical staff could have just as easily decided against risking injury.
It should be remembered that the Philadelphia Union are currently without two World Cup veteran midfielders, Maurice Edu of the United States and Tranquillo Barnetta from Switzerland, and also that the team were already carrying two fewer players than MLS regulations permit to begin with so, again, kudos to the organization for not being afraid to go ahead and ‘load up’ fledgling Bethlehem Steel FC for its very first United Soccer League game on the road in Canada against FC Montreal.
Here in the Lehigh Valley, home of the Philadelphia Phillies’ AAA affiliate, memories of the IronPigs’ train wreck at the start of inaugural International Leauge season in 2008 will out last everything. And the Philadelphia Flyers never help the Phantoms out quite the same way, say, all of the Washington Capitals’ conditioning stints magically seem to arrive when the Hershey Bears are playing the Hamilton Street Heroes at the PPL:Center in Allentown. So, even if the Philadelphia Union beefed up Bethlehem Steel solely for the purposes of keeping their MLS players match fit, we, the loyal fan base, certainly appreciate the things that go our way all the same.
It is almost certain that Bethlehem Steel FC will NOT have seven MLS players among the eighteen players dressed in uniform when the new United Soccer League club make their home debut at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium against visiting FC Cincinnati this coming Sunday (April 3rd). This, of course, because the Philadelphia Union have an away game against the Chicago Fire on Saturday, April 2nd. Nevertheless, I find it to be an encouraging sign that it does appear as if the Union have every intention of using their USL farm club as a valuable tool to help their MLS players stay in shape and keep their skills sharp over the course of the long season whenever possible and that can be a very beneficial deal for BSFC.