Fifteen unsigned Philadelphia Union Academy players traveled to Florida on Monday, where they will have a chance to impress Bethlehem Steel FC and first team staff for eight days.
The group includes goalkeepers Lukas Burns, Kris Shakes and Tomas Romero, who was training with the first team last week at the University of Pennsylvania, defenders Nathan Harriel, Tyger Evans, Sekou Soumah, JD Wagner, midfielders Cole Turner, Michael Pellegrino and Nick Blacklock and forward/wingers Patrick Bohui, Shanyder Borgelin, Tonny Temple and Axel Picazo.
While in previous seasons a select few academy players were invited to join the first team in Clearwater, Bethlehem Steel also traveling to Florida opened up the opportunity for a larger group of academy players this year.
Temple, Pellegrino and Romero all have USL appearances already on their resume and Shakes has made the 18 on several occasions in USL play. Romero and Pellegrino were invited to preseason in Clearwater along with Brenden Aaronson last year. Shakes, Romero and Anthony Fontana were the academy players invited to Florida in 2017.
“It doesn’t exclude anyone that’s not part of that group in Florida but it’s also a massive opportunity for those guys to be in front of the first team staff every single day for double sessions and for preseason matches against an MLS opponent at one stage for us,” Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said last week in a media call.
Two closed scrimmages are on the Steel schedule in Florida, beginning with an afternoon tilt with D.C. United on Saturday and another against Chargers Soccer Club next week. Nathan Harriel, a United States youth international right back, recently joined the Union Academy from the Tampa Bay-based Chargers.
Steel FC-rostered players Michee Ngalina, Faris, Selmir Miscic, Ben Ofeimu and Zach Zandi participated in training with the first team last week while James Chambers and Saed Diaz are expected to meet up with the team in Florida this week. Steve Kingue, whose signing was announced on Friday, is still awaiting international paperwork and a visa. Three trialists are also joining the group this week.
“The way we’ve laid it out is we’ll be training a little bit ahead of the first team but also in part simultaneously so there can be a lot of player movement between the two groups or when it’s necessary to make up numbers for a specific exercise,” Burke said.
The first team also has a scrimmage on Saturday against the University of South Florida, which has Union Academy and YSC Academy alums Josue Monge and Frederick Gil on their squad. They play the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday and take on the Steel’s first regular season opponent — USL Championship expansion team Birmingham Legion — a week later.
The camp marks the first time the Union’s second team has traveled to Florida. In previous years, Steel opened camp at YSC Sports near King of Prussia.
“From our standpoint, it gives us an opportunity to really be away from home and focus on the development of the team that has to come together over the space of four or five weeks,” Burke said.
2019 Bethlehem Steel FC Preseason Roster
|James Chambers (INT)||MF||Dublin||Ireland|
|Zach Zandi||MF||West Chester||Pennsylvania|
|Ben Ofeimu||D||West Bloomfield||Michigan|
|Michee Ngalina (INT)||MF||Kinshasa||Democratic Republic of Congo|
|Faris Pemi Moumbagna (INT)||F||Yaounde||Cameroon|
|Steve Kingue (INT)||D||Yaounde||Cameroon|
|Saed Diaz (INT)||F||Panama City||Panama|
|Tomas Romero^||GK||Cherry Hill||New Jersey|
|Shanyder Borgelin^||F||North Lauderdale||Florida|
|Michael Pellegrino^||MF||Wenonah||New Jersey|
|Danny Luis Flores^||MF||Moon Bay||California|
|JD Wagner^||D||Medford Lakes||New Jersey|
|Lukas Burns^||GK||Cinnaminson||New Jersey|
|^ Current Academy Player no signed to a pro contract|