In the third season of professional soccer in the modern era in Bethlehem, the team sports probably the most talented roster yet. In cooperation with the parent Union organization and as an opportunity for Union Academy developmental players, it should be the deepest, most cohesive group yet. Here’s some detailed information about the USL players, organized by position: (Information provided by Steel FC Media Department)
48 Matt Mahoney
Mahoney enters the season as Bethlehem Steel FC’s lone defensive returner from last season’s USL Cup Playoffs squad. Brought into the club’s preseason as a trialist, Mahoney demonstrated his worth and signed with the club prior to the 2017 slate kicking off. Last season, he appeared in nine times, starting four matches in his rookie campaign. Versatility is the 22-year-old’s calling card, with the ability to play all four positions along the back line. That ability was tested during Steel FC’s preseason slate, where he earned starts at both right back and center back. In the run-up to the home opener, Mahoney tallied an assist in the club’s victory over Junior Lone Star FC U23.
44 Brandon Aubrey
While Aubrey is new to Bethlehem Steel FC, he isn’t new to the USL. A first-round selection in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC, Aubrey spent 2017 with Toronto FC II where he gained important experience that led Steel FC to sign the 23-year-old. With nearly 1,800 minutes of USL experience through 21 appearances, Aubrey was a defensive anchor north of the border as he led the team in clearances, interceptions and blocks. The Plano, Texas native will be eager to showcase his talent after a busy preseason where he started as a center back in every Steel FC exhibition.
43 Prosper Chiluya
Acquired by Steel FC on loan from Kafue Celtic FC in the middle of preseason, Chiluya’s addition to Steel FC is one full of recent international success. 2017 was full of success and strides forward for the 19-year-old, starting 10 matches with the Zambian U-20 National Team that won the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations Championship and followed up with a quarterfinal appearance in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea. While he might have come into camp late, Chiluya has had to make the adjustment to soccer in the United States and has done so with four preseason match appearances to prepare for the USL season.
49 AJ Paterson
A target for Bethlehem Steel FC in the offseason, Paterson’s path to the club came after being selected by New York City FC in the second round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia. Steel FC was quick to pick up the 6’2” versatile graduate from Wright State who can step into the midfield as well as his primary position of center back for 2018. Paterson started 47 matches and made 76 appearances in college where he was the Horizon League’s Player of the Year in 2017. One thing that stands out is his height and it was showcased against Villanova in the preseason, as headed home a set piece. Overall, he made six preseason appearances in preparation for his first professional season.
47 Olivier Mbaizo
Another international acquisition this offseason was outside back Olivier Mbaizo. A regular with the Cameroonian U-20 National Team, he appeared in the same tournament as fellow teammate Prosper Chiluya at the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations. During the tournament, he played every minute. This preseason saw Mbaizo prepare for his first season in the United States by training with Steel FC along with time with the Philadelphia Union in Clearwater.
45 James Chambers
The captain returns for his third season with Bethlehem Steel FC, looking to showcase his veteran leadership to lead the club to its second-consecutive USL Cup Playoff appearance. Over the past two seasons with Steel FC, Chambers has racked up eight goals and added five assists. Besides his impact on the stat sheet, Chambers is the engine of the entire squad. With his vast experience from numerous countries, the captain’s brain is one of a chess player, always thinking two moves ahead. In preparation for the upcoming season, Chambers has appeared in four preseason matches and scored the first tally of the year with a rocket against FC Motown.
41 Mike Catalano
A rookie out of the University of Wisconsin, Catalano has quickly taken on the club’s hardworking mentality at Steel FC. That hard work was fostered in college, where he helped build the club from winless in 2014 to Big Ten Tournament Champions in his senior season. To prepare for his first professional season, Catalano has appeared in all seven exhibitions and racked up over 500 minutes of playing time. The 22-year-old not only can dictate the transition from defense to the offense but has a scorer’s boot, having tallied 19 as a Badger and scoring in a friendly against Loyola (MD).
36 Omar Holness
While just 24-years-old, Holness brings to Steel FC Major League Soccer experience after showcasing his talents with Real Salt Lake the past two seasons. Originally drafted at the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft out of North Carolina, Holness was a member of Generation adidas. While Holness has tallied his first MLS goal last year, he also spent time in the USL with Real Monarchs SLC. The Kingston, Jamaica native is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered last season but Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said in his weekly teleconference that Holness is “no more than a month away.”
39 Drew Skundrich
The newest addition to Steel FC, Skundrich adds even more versatility to the club. While the Lancaster, PA., native has spent time as a right back, expect to see the three-time NCAA Champion compete for playing time in the midfield this season as well. Skundrich brings even more winning mentality to the squad, having won back-to-back-to-back championships at Stanford along with being a member of the 2012 Philadelphia Union Academy U-17 squad that won the Generation adidas Cup.
40 Brandon Allen
While forward Brandon Allen is a newcomer to Bethlehem Steel FC in 2018, the rest of the United Soccer League knows what a scoring threat the 24-year-old presents. Before going on loan last season to Minnesota United, Allen showcased his scoring ways the past 18 months with rival New York Red Bulls II. During his time with the club, Allen struck for a goal every 120 minutes of field time for a total of 30 goals overall. Allen was the 2016 USL Rookie of the Year and earned a spot on the USL All-League First Team. In pressure moments, that is where Allen shined, netting a hat trick as he propelled the club to the USL Cup Championship and won MVP honors. In preseason action with Steel FC, Allen has continued to score at a high rate with four goals in seven appearances.
42 Aidan Apodaca
While Apodaca is heading into his first professional season, the 21-year-old knows how to score goals. In 2017 during his senior season at Division-II California Baptist, Apodaca netted an NCAA men’s soccer leading 29 goals, including a five-goal performance. The scoring hasn’t stopped since signed his first professional contract after being selected by the Philadelphia Union in the third round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. The Rancho Cucamonga, California native led the club in preseason scoring with five goals and an assist in seven preseason appearances.
38 Santi Moar
With a popular hashtag of #MoarGoals, the Coruna, Spain native didn’t disappoint during his rookie campaign last season on the wing. Moar finished runner-up for the USL Rookie of the Year after netting six goals and adding six assists in 1,803 minutes. As the race for the USL Cup Playoffs heated up, Moar turned in some of his best performances including the club’s quickest brace on Toronto FC II in October. His scoring ways haven’t diminished in preseason play, scoring three goals in three appearances including a brace against Junior Lone Star FC U-23.
37 Chris Nanco
Opposite of Moar on the wing was Chris Nanco, whose speed on the right side caused defenses throughout the league countless problems in 2017. In 28 appearances in his rookie campaign, Nanco netted four goals and a pair of assists. He made an immediate impact in his professional debut on the road at Harrisburg, scoring his first goal five minutes after taking to the pitch. A constant threat, Nanco’s scoring abilities were voted the top goal of last year and he will be looking to do even more in 2018. The run-up to the home opener on Sunday, March 18, against Richmond, Nanco netted a goal and had a team-high two assists preseason action.
These are the Steel FC primary players. Expect to see plenty of Union MLS players on the pitch at Goodman, as well. You’ll be able to recognize those guys by their low uniform numbers, usually 1-33. There may also be some younger players from the Union Academy, ready to test out the professional game. You’ll spot them by uniform numbers over 50. Keepers for this season will likely be from those two groups.