With the announcement of Cory Burke formally joining the Bethlehem Steel FC roster, the Philadelphia Union gave me a bit of an added present: a roster makeup. Usually a somewhat meaningless bit of information tacked on to the end of press releases, these divide players by position. It should be noted that this formation is using the eleven players I find to be the best starting XI at time of writing, so any potential future signings will not be accounted for. Also worth mentioning is that BSFC will play an identical style and formation as the Union, so 4-3-3 will be what we're going to display
Before we talk who made it, here are the options we have to work with.
Goalkeepers (1): Samir Badr
Defenders (5): Nick Bibbs, Michael Daly, Raymond Lee, Ryan Richter, Ken Tribbett
Midfielders (5): Boluwatife Akinyode, James Chambers, Gabe Gissie, Josh Heard, Derrick Jones
Forwards (3): Amoy Brown, Cory Burke, Seku Conneh
Goalkeeper: Samir Badr gets in the starting 11 by way of being our only goalie at this point. Not that I don't think he will serve the team well - he should do fine, but one would have to think there will be someone to back him up at some point.
Defense: Former Union draftee and one time MLS appearance maker Raymond Lee is your left back. Not the most exciting news at face value, but he's got a great chance to show us what he can offer. Ryan Richter partners out wide with Lee and becomes the second Union draftee to join the back line. Richter has MLS experience with Toronto FC and was a big part of a largely successful Ottawa Fury side that nearly won the NASL title last season. He will surely have plenty of competent partners to help out with the Steel defense, and Mickey Daly will be the anchor of this back line. Having played somewhere between a million and every minute to ever exist in space and time for Sacramento Republic FC, Daly has always proven himself as a stellar center back. We can only hope that he will continue his reputation as a standout player for Bethlehem. Joining him in the middle is KenTribbett. One of the most successful players in Drexel University's soccer program, the former defending mid will no doubt drop back in favor for James Chambers. He should be fine at CB if his preseason performance against a pretty fast, rather attacking minded team like the Chicago Fire is any indication.
Defensive players on bench: Nick Bibbs
Midfield: Easier to figure out in some ways as at least two of the picks are pretty much no brainers. James Chambers is my midfield anchor. He's proven he has success and some title history in his native Ireland and definitely seems up for the challenge here in the States. Chambers was an absolute workhorse in 2014-15 for Shamrock Rovers and the Irish international will surely be happy getting minutes this year in the USL. Joining Chambers as another holding midfielder is Bolu Akinyode. Akinyode comes to us by way of New York Red Bulls II, and he has a pretty respectable amount of experience in USL - just over 1000 minutes as a 21 year old is definitely a good sign. He will no doubt be constantly learning from James Chambers as they try to form a good working partnership. My attacking mid was a bit trickier to try and set. Gabe Gissie has experience in USL with Sacramento and already knows what it's like to play with Mickey Daly, however for the sake of establishing that "pipeline" between the academy, BSFC and the Union first team, I went with Derrick Jones. If I had to pick one guy to try and sell Union 2.0.5 to, it's this guy. The prodigal son of the Union, he became the first signing for BSFC in December. He seemingly is going to be worth the honor, with 26 games with 21 starts for the Academy's U-18 side. He currently has 9 starts in 12 appearances for the U-18's this season, and will pretty much come into Bethlehem in form right away. Derrick has a pretty good opportunity to prove himself in Bethlehem, and there's every indication he should do just that.
Bench: Gabe Gissie, Josh Heard
Up top was a matter of which Jamaican striker I wanted to push out wide. Given that Cory Burke has been eating the world's supply of goals lately, he gets my spot up top at striker. He's only on loan, but with his recent run of form (12 of Rivoli United's 18 league goals) it's undeniable that he starts. Right wing is the only actual winger on our roster in Seku Conneh. There were plenty of goals from the Dutch winger for FC Oss, and Conneh will look to feed Burke equally as much as he would like to shoot. Stellar stats abroad don't always equate success in the American scene, but Conneh would love to become an impact player for the Steel. With apologies to Amoy Brown, the former Portland Timbers trialist will be playing on the left wing. Brown has a golden boot to his credit with St George's College and for now I don't mind moving him out wide. He's young and could still adapt to a new position. I'm not sure he will necessarily have to as I expect BSFC to pick up some Union trialists who don't make the final cut, but for now he rounds out my top 11.
There you have it. Feel free to make your own and tell me how right or wrong I am in the comments. First preseason game is March 6th and open to the public at the Union training center in Chester. We'll have a real idea as to what the Steel look like then.