After scoring the game-winner to beat North Carolina FC on Saturday, 18-year-old Bethlehem Steel FC winger Michee Ngalina could be in line to make his first team debut.
Ngalina, who was in training with the first team on Monday, has been added to the roster on a short-term deal for Philadelphia Union’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Richmond Kickers tonight.
He becomes the first player on a Steel contract to be made available for an Open Cup match and the third to sign a short-term agreement. Derrick Jones and Ryan Richter were signed to short-term deals for the Crystal Palace exhibition in July 2016. Jones subbed into the game in the second half but Richter did not appear.
Last week, head coach Jim Curtin hinted that he would be including a young Steel player on the roster but after training Monday did not say whether Michee would in fact be the player. Steel FC midfielder Santi Moar — a 2017 MLS SuperDraft pick — has also recently trained with the first team.
“I’ll let you guys speculate on that,” Curtin said when asked about Ngalina, who has two goals in seven appearances — both game winners — since signing with the Steel in April.
This isn’t the first time the teenager from the Democratic Republic of Congo has been around the first team. He was an unannounced player on the Union roster for a preseason match in Florida, where Ngalina first came to the U.S. to attend Montverde Academy.
Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke has been high on the winger since he arrived on trial and was signed after turning 18 in April. He had this to say after he became the youngest Steel FC goal-scorer after the 3-0 win over New York Red Bulls II on May 16:
“He hasn’t even had that much time with us and he’s only been with us about a month and a half,” Burke said at the time. “I’m just really impressed with his composure to play in a game that fast at just 18-years-old. I was just told that he is the youngest goalscorer in Steel FC’s history which is a big accomplishment, I’m sure some others will push him coming out of the [Philadelphia Union] Academy but he not only looked like a guy that contributed a goal tonight but was goal-dangerous the whole time he was on the field.”
Per Major League Soccer roster rules and regulations, a club may sign players from their USL affiliate to short-term agreements (up to four-day contracts) for CONCACAF Champions League, Canadian Championship, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and exhibition matches. A club may sign a player to a maximum of four short-term agreements each season (maximum of 16 days).