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Eastern Conference Preview: Bethlehem Steel FC

It’s March, everybody, and that means soccer season has begun in America. Louisville City’s preseason begins in earnest THIS WEEK in a closed friendly against Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, but the real season starts on March 26 in Charlotte. We (not the royal we this time!) at louisvillecoopers.com want you, Louisville City fans, to be as up to date and educated on City’s opponents this season as possible, so this month we’ll be bringing you previews for each team in the Eastern Conference before first kick on the 26th.

I’m the editor in chief of this fair webpage, and so I’ll be going first with…

Bethlehem Steel FC.

An MLS 2 team by any other name.

Background

Here’s the quick and dirty on BSFC, an unfortunate set of initials: while they’re trading on a great and historical name in U.S. soccer history, this is really the Philadelphia Union 2.* Philadelphia is a terrible MLS team. Since the team was founded in 2008, they’ve become known for an owner who won’t spend money on players, a coach that used to abuse his charges, and once had like five goalkeepers on their first team roster. Up until this season, the Union’s USL affiliate was the Harrisburg City Islanders, which are also terrible. Generally, the lower parts of an organization bear similarities to the top, so it’s fair to assume that we can’t expect much from P.U.2 in their inaugural season.

That said, all is not crap in Philly. The Union have a fairly accomplished academy, and started what is branded as the first soccer high school in the country back in 2014. They’ve produced some good players like Zak Pfeffer, but because the front office is almost legally incompetent they’ve never been able to hang on to any of their own kids. That may change, however, as the club hired former USMNT favorite and AZ Alkmaar sporting director Earnie Stewart to run their club in the offseason. Hopefully, for the sake of the players, BSFC will be a change of pace, too.

*Other potential team names included Lehigh Valley Steel SC, Lehigh Valley Blast, and Steel FC. I voted for the Blast, myself.

Players

Here’s what we actually know about the Steel: one of their first signings was Ken Tribbett, one of the few bright spots for Harrisburg City Islanders last season. We also know that shortly after he signed with the Steel, Tribbett signed a contract with the Union, which effectively terminated his career in Bethlehem before it ever began. So far, this is fun!

It gets better. The club doesn’t actually have a published roster, but if one were to go by the ever-reliable Wikipedia page, they’ve only got 13 players under contract. That may not be the worst thing, as the Union probably have plenty of middle-to-bottom-of-the-road players to loan to the Steel. Their goalkeeper (singular) and defenders (count: 4) are all Americans, while the midfield and forwards are all internationals. I’m about to re-name this club Stereotype FC. You’ve probably never heard of any of these guys, but one of them was so bad St. Louis agreed to get rid of him. St. Louis.

Coaching Staff

The squad will be led by manager Brendan Burke, who is one year younger than me. Burke had a less than non-descript playing career, and started coaching when he was 25 at well-known USL-PDL stop Reading United for four years. He was also on staff with the Union for 3 seasons before taking up this role, his first as a professional head coach.

Stadium

BSFC will play their home matches at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, which is also the home field for the Lehigh University football team. The team will train in Chester, PA with the Union which, of course, makes sense. I think it would be hard to build ties with the local community when you’re only there 14 days a year, but it’s not my reserve team.

Supporters

None that I know of!

Totally Justifiable Table Prediction

I’m going last. Wilmington can’t be that bad two season in a row, and there’s no way these guys figure it out as fast as FC Montreal and TFC II did last season. BUT THAT #BRANDNARRATIVE Y’ALL!