About 250 hopeful prospects showed up to the Goodman Campus at Lehigh University yesterday to show their prowess in front of an impressive list of 20 coaches from the Philadelphia Union, Bethlehem Steel FC, the Premier Development League, and various academies throughout the region. Fittingly, the day began for the hopefuls with a introduction speech by Philadelphia Union skipper Jim Curtin, who was probably the biggest surprise, randomly ghosting his way towards the middle of the complex to join Bethlehem Steel head coach and largest beneficiary of today's events, Brendan Burke.
The tryout was your standard six on six for six minutes fare, with a few names standing out for me as I tried to keep my attention on one field given that most players got a chance to rotate throughout the three field set up. Delano Brown, a tall and somewhat lanky defender, looked more than capable of getting a call back. Joining him at my fictional BSFC back line made up of people who went to the open tryout is Richard Sho-Silva. He was very vocal at the back, and seemed confident on the ball. Forwards Austin Transue and Mauricio Nava also caught my attention as people that should be invited back for round two of tryouts in December.
Of course the big task at hand was to finally get a chance to talk to Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke about the events and his philosophy going forward for his club. On what today was really about for him as the coach Burke said, "You're hoping to be able to identify a few guys that can come in during the winter session and see how they mix in with our current players."
After establishing the reason for the open tryout, given that everyone except for three-quarter pant wearing Jim Curtin was terribly cold, I dove into some tactical talk with Burke. Obviously the word "bridge" has been thrown around and I wanted to see if tactics applied to that. On the subject of if BSFC would be independent tactics from his own, Burke said "It's definitely a part of the machine, absolutely, that's why you see all the first team staff out here today, and the academy staff out here today. We're all on the same page. We'll mirror what the first team does. The tactics that [Earnie Stewart], and [Jim Curtin] and [Chris Albright] settle on is going to be our direction as well."
Burke in fact talked with new Union Technical Director Earnie Stewart last week and received some pretty direct advice, some of which I think came across in his next exchange with me.
"We're all kind of excited to have that technical piece that we never had... That's all we are doing right now to be honest, is roster composition right now, looking at USL guys that are still young enough to make the jump to the Union eventually. I think it's safe to say our average age will be three to four years younger than the Union roster."
Most importantly though, Coach Burke looked excited, like someone who had just gotten the keys to the castle handed to him, and he almost said as much when we were wrapping up. "I'm excited about this up here, especially because this is a soccer starved area."
From the looks of things, if Burke and Stewart have their way, Bethlehem Steel FC will bring young, exciting, local soccer to an area that could really benefit from it.