It was a perfect day to soccer in Chester, as the Philadelphia Union and Bethlehem Steel FC met for a scrimmage in front of a few dozen fans. While there were referees and score was kept, that was less important than the squads getting a tune up and the coaches getting a chance to evaluate the players.
The first forty minutes were interesting, as Steel FC got the lead early thanks to a great Josh Heard run and equally impressive Seku Conneh finish. Then Bethlehem just turned it off in the last five minutes of the half. They played some pretty good soccer and while the final score isn’t surprising, how we got there is. CJ Sapong got the first for Philly, heading in a solid goal that finally beat Tomas Romero. The second was poor defending from Steel that saw Ilsinho score from the top of the box. The third was a great series where Adam Najem showed why he is “The Truth” and found CJ who put in a poacher’s goal for the third.
Steel played a solid game, against MLS caliber opponents. The Union had a game that might’ve shown just how deadly they could be at times. No need to stress about play on either side of the ball. That being said below are just some quick observations on the match.
1.) Get on the hype train for Adam Najem and Auston Trusty this instant: Najem has absolutely lethal passing and shooting as well as incredible ball control from the center attacking mid spot. Adam came on in the second half and was every bit as good as he has been all preseason. Auston is a beast. His positioning is just about flawless, and at 6’3 and 185 lbs he already cuts an intimidating figure at just 18. He paired pretty well with Ken Tribbett in the second half and had a clean sheet.
2.) Also look out for the Academy kids in Bethlehem: Mark McKenzie held his own against CJ Sapong, Jay Simpson, and Charlie Davies. Josue Monge had a solid game. Tomas Romero stood on his had and put in one of the better 90 minutes I’ve seen by a goalie in a Steel FC kit. These guys are all 16-18. Their progression through the Union’s player pipeline is as big to the organization as Derrick Jones starting every match for the Union and Trusty's national team success.
3.) Veteran core, younger feel: Cory Burke is 25, James Chambers just turned 30. Hugh Roberts was just brought in as the USL veteran presence, and is 24. Steel FC have figured out an identity in year two, and it seems to be trending young and letting the kids play.
4.) Fafa should play more: Picault was about one or two touches away from a goal in his own right. People have been clamoring for more of the elusive winger and it’s hard to make an argument against him coming on in the second half when defenses are trying to catch their breath. In my opinion, he should be the first guy off the bench every week.
For the record here’s the starting XI and subs from both sides. Players in parenthesis indicate they replaced the player they are next to.
Union: Jake McGuire; Fabinho (Giliano Wijnaldum), Richie Marquez (Auston Trusty), Jack Elliott (Ken Tribbett), Keegan Rosenberry (Ray Gaddis); Fafa Picault (Fabian Herbers), Derrick Jones (Jack Elliott), Haris Medunjanin (Brian Carroll), Ilsinho (Marcus Epps), Roland Alberg (Adam Najem); Jay Simpson (CJ Sapong, Charlie Davies)
Steel: Tomas Romero; Charlie Reymann (Matt Mahoney), Hugh Roberts, Mark McKenzie, Aaron Jones; James Chambers, Josue Monge (Chris Nanco), Josh Heard, Yosef Samuel, Seku Conneh (Justin McMaster), Corey Burke (Amoy Brown)