Philadelphia Union II

Brendan Burke named head coach of Bethlehem Steel FC

Photo: Earl Gardner

The Philadelphia Union announced on Wednesday Brendan Burke has been named head coach of the club’s new USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC.

Burke, an assistant coach with the Union between 2011 and 2013, was head coach of PDL affiliate Reading United from 2008 through 2013. Burke was also head coach of the Union reserve team while on the Union technical staff.

Burke was the most successful head coach in Reading United’s history with 71 wins (65-11-18 in regular season play). Under his guidance Reading won the PDL 2009 regular season championship, the Eastern Conference championship in 2008 and 2010, and the 2008, 2009, and 2010 Mid-Atlantic Division championships. With Burke at the helm, Reading United made six consecutive appearances in the PDL postseason and five consecutive appearances in the US Open Cup tournament, setting a U.S. amateur record for the modern era of the tournament. Burke also served as assistant general manager of the PDL team.

A number of Reading United players would go on to professional careers after playing under Burke, including the Union’s Leo Fernandes, Ray Gaddis, John McCarthy, CJ Sapong, and Andrew Wenger, former Union players Pedro Ribeiro and Aaron Wheeler, as well as Corey Hertzog, Zarek Valentin, Matt Hedges, Steve Neumann, and Deshorn Brown, among others.

Prior to being named head coach of Reading United, Burke was academy director of the Reading Rage, as the team was known before the start of its affiliation with the Union and subsequent rebranding.

After leaving the Union and Reading United in January of 2014, Burke was named associate head coach of Northeastern University’s men’s soccer team on April 14, 2014.


  1. Perfect.
    It’s all coming together.

    • .
      Saw Chris Albright up at YSC headquarters today…. it is almost as if the academy is becoming the hub…. and that is EXACTLY how it should be… I do recognize the first team doesn’t practice there but The Quarry has to be central. Love it.
      Everything in all societies begins and ends with the youth and so it should be with this club.
      Saw some other folks at YSC yesterday and they must have been like, ‘man back off.’ I was stammering on to them like a frenetic Gatling Gun….. couldn’t help it though… I’m really proud and hopeful right now and I hope and trust the ceaseless unfolding of excellence continues….
      ….it is the ONLY acceptable outcome for me. EXCELLENCE.
      to build on another persons thread about building players only to be unable to pay them….
      I’m not okay with the club being a midtable feeder for the LAG or Sheffield Wednesday and I dont think that is the goal… but as salaries escalate I’m okay with being the birthplace of the first truly world class US player (and more?) going forward and that simply isn’t going to happen in MLS yet by staying with your team. Build them then sell them to the world…. sounds a lot like a steel plant to me.
      This is why the clubwide philosophy is so important because the pipeline just keeps churning out quality players that replace the departed and every so often it all comes together with a trophy.
      I guess what I’m trying to say is it is more important to me that the club produces players that are considered top notch then not giving young players a chance and winning a title then watching guys get old… ie Phillies.
      the goal of every academy and first team should be winning, yes….. but to me the true goal of our academy system should not just be about building first team players…. there is a race on right now to produce the first truly WORLD CLASS player.
      WORLD CLASS is the goal. Has to be. Do that and the entire nation is your oyster.

  2. The good Union news just keeps on coming! What kind of alternate universe have we entered???

  3. He should have never left. Glad he is back.

    • James Lockerbie says:

      I wonder what/why or who made him want to leave in the first place?

      • i think he could probably see how ridiculous it was bound to get under the past leadership. and he was right

      • James Lockerbie says:


      • I believe it came out today that he left due to “illness in the family.” He also said he was excited to return and didn’t hesitate at the chance… or something like that

      • He left because of former ass’t coach Rob V. Burke didn’t agree on his tactics and strategies and found it easier to just leave and not stay and continue to butt heads.

        Plus with new child and family in Boston it was path of least resistance.

        Glad he is back. Excellent person and coach.

  4. Its almost like some invisible tether had been cut two or three weeks ago, allowing the Union to soar free like a DARPA Blimp over north-central Pennsylvania.
    Seriously, though, firing Sak will be widely considered the turning point in the history of the Union.

  5. What type of black magic did Sak practice? How is it possible to make more great moves in 5 days than he did in 5 years?!

    • Day 6: Zlatan

    • He certainly cast a pall over the whole organization in his last few years. But to give some credit, while we are thrilled with Brendan Burke and the direction of Bethlehem Steel, you do have to give Sak a shred of credit for his part in bringing the USL club to fruition.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Because these things cost money… and that would hurt Saks monetary investment in the club… spend less, and cash out for more. Putting this all together after the fact, is disgusting… he really makes me so sick.

  6. After this last month I’m not sure how to describe how happy/optimistic I feel about this team. So…this…

  7. I’m beginning to think someone at the Union found a wondrous, genie-filled lamp in an old cave along the Delaware.

  8. Kingkowboys says:

    This is such a smart move. Burke will be a great developmental coach. He’s also genuinely a good person. He never should have left the organization. Glad he’s back. I am in awe of how these 3 days of off season have good. 3 days, 3 big moves.

    • It really is bizarre but wonderful. This organization has been knocking it out of the park daily the last 3 days. I’ve already forgotten last season even happened.

  9. i remember the last couple of years they did ‘the u thank u’ where they gave out prizes every day for like a month. i noticed they didn’t advertise that they were doing that this year so i thought they did away with it. little did i know that they decided to change the format and just do something really goddamn great every day instead of giving random fans mini soccer balls and dinners with brian carroll

  10. The Little Fish says:

    More great news. I’m absolutely over the moon right now. We are making all the right moves and we have cap space, 3rd pick in the draft, AND a legit mentor for Jimmy. Hell, I say lets play some Dutch ‘Total Voetbal’ and actually attack our opponents every week. Why not us?

  11. is it safe to assume that Burke had differences with Sak and was let go? same for the other front office staff that left during the past few years? while I appreciate the recent moves that send the club in a different direction, a balanced view of what is happening may be that Sugarman is acting aggressively to correct his own prior errors and omissions, and Graham is acting aggressively to expand his influence over the club (because he has invested quite a bit through cash and the academy). Both are welcome and no intrusive autopsy is required. I never believed Sak had as much authority as Sak led us to believe or others assumed, as CASH invested generally describes power structures in these types of investments, and Sak never seemed to have that much cash (no where near like “his partners”) and was just a hireling to set up the business (since he had done “so well” at it before). It seems Sugarman was too willing to be an absentee owner and to let Sak dawdle and puff (why give him an extra year if his contract ended?) while Graham was trying to make things happen and kept running into Sak. Thanks Richie for tractoring on – its a shame that many good people had to go before Sugarman admitted to himself what the problem was.

    • I believe the answer you are looking for is called loyalty. It’s an all to uncommon value now a days. It may have been the wrong value for this organization the past few years, but I’d rather have loyalty and make mistakes than not have any at all. Sugar may have felt he owed Sak for getting his MLS franchise up and running, while gathering a vibrant, hungry fan-base. Thus he gave him this last year past his contract, to turn things around. From all accounts there was friction between the two, as in what direction the team was heading. But Sugar stayed loyal, and told Sak to fix it. Sak didn’t. So he’s gone. Now the Renaissance has begun. Brighter days are ahead. May the “Dark Ages” fade into the back recesses of our memory.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        That the extra year was an opportunity to fix it is my theory as well, especially since it is possible that the value targets for Sakiewicz to reach may have been set before October, 2008, the day the economic universe changed.

  12. Will they host open tryouts? I’ve played D1 soccer and it’s been very difficult to find an in for semi-pro and pro teams. I’d love to know when tryouts are!

    • They are hosting try outs. Uncertain when. I plan on attending- but only half. I’m in my 40’s and fit as a fiddle – but have other responsibilities. I’m the first sub off the bench in my weekly pick up game with strong Italian players. I can juggle 27 times. I can do a Maradona around the table chair. I eschew contact. I wear a Zidane jersey- the Juventus jersey, not the Real jersey cause I strongly dislike Real Madrid. I am Zidane in my imagination when I play and that makes me dangerous.
      You all better be ready for me. I’m a com in’. Old Diadoras at the ready.

      • Great news! I’m 25 and in great shape. I still play competitively in Central Jersey and my team is undefeated with the least goals given up in the league (I play defense). Let’s see if you can keep up!

      • do you play leftback by any chance?

      • I can play anywhere in the back. I’m at my best at central back/sweeper though since I’m very fast and can run down any through balls. I also have a good shot and have made runs and scored. Saved my team a few times last season by doing it.

      • Matt I think you missed Kyle’s sarcasm. It’s alright though.
        Boy to be young like you again… I appreciate your energy, assurance and bravado.
        It’s all testosterone in your 20’s – – by my age it’s some testosterone – – – with a governor, a pin.leak in the vas deferens, a handful of kids in five years and one or two long suffering dreams deferred.
        “Make. Make. Be your future.”

  13. same old sh-t different year

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