Steel FC returned home last week from Florida after joining the first team for the first time ever for pre-season. The ownership group along with Sporting Director Ernst Tanner helped make sure Steel FC and the Union Academy U-19s could join the first team down south. They have since separated and Steel FC are back at home at YSC Academy in King of Prussia.
Currently, Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke and his technical staff are busy juggling countless roster changes while managing to improve each day as pre-season matches come and go. Burke chatted with media members Wednesday afternoon to provide updates on his club’s progression.
“The last couple games have been good. They’ve been telling for a number of guys,” said Burke.
So far, success has been here and there for Burke’s club as they wade through pre-season without a full roster. “We were very happy with the performance through the first 60 minutes on Sunday and we left wanting a little bit more out of last night. That was expected considering all the changes being made to the group,” said Burke. “But that’s where we are in pre-season, it happens every year. It’s just part of the process.”
That process involves a continual rotation of Union Academy players that have earned an opportunity at the professional taking stabs at minutes whenever possible. It also involves various trialists, the likes of which can be there one day and gone the next. Burke and his staff are also awaiting the arrival of Cameroonian-international Steve Kingue, acquired via loan on January 25th.
But yet, time and the schedule continues on.
“We play Richmond Kickers on Wednesday down in Loudon, Virginia. It’s a closed-door match. Friday will be against Loudon FC (D.C.’s affiliate),” said Burke.
As for Steel FC’s style of play so far this pre-season, well they haven’t necessarily stuck to the diamond pattern in the midfield like the first team has implemented. Instead, they’ve lined up with two center midfielders with space at the 10 for others to venture in and out of. When asked why, Burke said, “We are preparing to play both ways… we need to understand the tactical nuances of playing both ways. There’s a lot that will change from now until the start of the season. That’s with a larger plan in mind.”
Of course the larger plan is always focused on development. That’s the entire purpose of Steel FC’s existence. They aren’t a money-making venture.
One position where much development is taking place already is at goalkeeper. Union signing Matt Freese is slated to be Steel FC’s number one keeper come opening day. Steel FC will not carry a goalkeeper under contract this season. One main reason why is the presence of Academy duo of Tomas Romero and Kris Shakes as reliable back-ups.
“I fully expect Matt Freese to be our number one. I expect Tomas [Romero] to be number two in that order and [Kris] Shakes to push to displace him if he can,” said Burke. “I was very happy to see [Romero] have such a positive performance on what was really a poor night for a lot of other guys.”
Another position to focus on in 2019 is at forward. The dangerous Michee Ngalina will return for another year and will look to pair up with Faris as much as possible. Faris, also returning, has been displaying some “signs of serious growth” according to Burke so far in camp.
Faris and Ngalina will need to be explosive this year for Steel FC. If they play a two-striker system, that pairing up top could be very lethal on both sides of the ball.
“I think he’s learning when to ‘turn it on’ so to speak a little bit more,” said Burke. “We still have a long ways to go on that front. Allowing his teammates to put him in advanced positions I think is going to be the focus the next few weeks.”
Burke will look to allow competition to take over as his team continues pre-season. With so many different players vying for a professional roster spot, it’s vital the competition remains healthy. But, not to worry. Burke has been through this before. He and his staff have learned how to handle an abundance of changes to the roster on a daily basis.
“There will be a few additions still… but we cannot comment any further on that just yet,” said Burke.
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Mandatory Credit: Bethlehem Steel FC