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Steeling Info: Brandon Aubrey

Who better to talk to about Brandon than someone who watched him a bunch last year?

Brandon Aubrey in training with Steel FC
Matt Ralph

Bethlehem Steel FC feel a bit different this year. They’re coming off a very successful 2017 campaign that saw the club make the playoffs in USL play. They also had success in developing kids like Matt Real, Anthony Fontana, and, to a lesser extent, Cory Burke and Mark McKenzie, who have all been rewarded with first-team deals. They were also a bit more aggressive on the transfer market, notably snagging “The Two Brandons” in Brandon Aubrey and Brandon Allen, Real Salt Lake’s Omar Holness and Cameroonian full back Olivier Mbaizo. Add those guys to the Union’s draft picks and Steel have one of the better young cores in USL.

That being said, USL folks love to talk shop so I reached out to SB Nation sister site Waking the Red and got ahold of their TFC II expert, James Grossi, and interrogated him for information on the former Junior Reds center back.

Bold questions are mine, everything else is all James.

EV: Easy enough to start, some basic info on what Aubrey does and some strengths?

JG: Aubrey is a left-sided centre-back, for the most part, with a good range of passing – he showed some real vision to advance the ball on occasion, though more often than not he was called upon to just win balls and take the first few steps before playing a simple forward ball.

Perhaps his best asset is his aerial dominance, especially defensively. Teammates and coaches praised his head as being a magnet for anything flung into the area. He rarely threatened at the other end off set-pieces; though, to be fair, Toronto didn’t get that many looks.

He’s not afraid of a strong tackle – there is a bit of nasty in his game, which is always nice – and he proved a competent defender, but struggled a little to adjust to the professional game in his first season.

EV: Other side of the coin, any weaknesses that other teams exploited against him in the past?

JG: He was in and out of the lineup, playing for a side that was regularly under pressure, and seemed to commit his fair share of costly errors: there was one play where he tried to lift a ball over a tackle as the last man, a bad turnover that led to a dangerous chance, and a dreadful own goal when he got his feet all wrong against Harrisburg. (Video embedded. WARNING: it’s really bad.)

Along with those bigger ones there were other momentary lapses - getting beat to the near-post, stepping up to face the immediate danger rather than noticing the trouble lurking around the corner.

How much of that is on him as an individual versus being in a side with thin margins can be difficult to say.

EV: It’s not incredibly often that a team, especially one like Toronto that has an MLS 2 side and values the draft, lets a first-rounder just kind of, leave. Any insight on why they passed up on Aubrey?

JG: Part of why his option was declined is that given the situation in Toronto developmental minutes are precious. TFC signed several teenage defenders from the academy, 16- and 17-year-olds, that will likely see the majority of the minutes in USL this season.

Similarly, most of the other slightly older, more experienced, and thus more consistent performers - Mitch Taintor, Brian James, and Jordan McCrary - were also allowed to seek new pastures.

And then there is the fact that having signed an MLS contract prior to the draft made his salary number and roster position unmanageable.

EV: What should we expect out of him in 2018 with Bethlehem?

JG: The gap between the professional game and college can be a wide one. Brandon needed time to get his feet under him; a luxury Toronto could not provide. If he is allowed to develop, focus on his game in a team that can cover for the occasional mistake, one suspects he could have a long career ahead of him as a no-nonsense, commanding defender.

It would have been very interesting to see what he would look like with more time to develop in Toronto, under the tutelage of the defender-heavy coaching staff and learning from Drew Moor, but the timing just doesn’t fit.

Bethlehem have got a good guy with a strong skill set, now it’s about how they use him and allow him to take the required steps.

Really good stuff in my opinion there. Big thanks to James for helping out and definitely go give him a follow on the Twitters.