Philadelphia Union II

Bethlehem’s Badr shows class in recent run

Photo: Courtesy of Bethlehem Steel

You probably haven’t heard much about Samir Badr, but that could change thanks to the goalkeeper’s impressive string of games with Bethlehem Steel.

Badr demonstrated he is a clear talent between the sticks during the Steel’s recent road trip. The 24-year-old goalkeeper has saved 78 percent of the shots he faced and produced a 1.14 goals against average through seven games, both of which are improvements over regular starter John McCarthy’s numbers.

Badr may be largely unknown to American soccer fans, but he has taken an interesting path professionally. The DC-area native and former U.S. youth international played with D.C. United’s youth academy before heading overseas to join Portuguese giants FC Porto. He found playing time scarce there and departed for Egyptian side El-Hodood in 2012, a remarkably tumultuous time in Egypt due to the Arab Spring uprising. Sure enough, the Egyptian Premier League shut down that year due to the Port Said stadium riot and the political chaos around the country.

Badr’s career stalled until he found his way back to the U.S. in 2014 with USL sides Oklahoma City and Colorado Springs. He earned playing time with both USL clubs but failed to lock down a permanent starting role.

With Bethlehem, however, he has impressed over the team’s recent stretch of road games.

The Union’s starting role between the sticks is covered by All-Star Andre Blake. Loanee Matt Jones was brought in to provide experienced backup, with John McCarthy expected to continue his development with the Steel. However, McCarthy has made the Union’s game day 18 in six of its last seven games, which coincides with Bethlehem’s nearly one-month stretch of five consecutive road games, the exception being Jones’ appearance on the Union roster for the DC game on July 9. McCarthy has since started the Steel’s last two games since returning home, including making the lineup for today’s match against Wilmington.

Nevertheless, Badr seized the opportunity afforded by McCarthy’s time away from Bethlehem with both hands.

At 6-3, Badr’s hulking figure belies his elegance and agility in his shot stopping. In Richmond, he punched away a fizzing shot that would have stolen a point from the Steel, helping his club secure a well-deserved draw in an unbalanced game.

Thus far, he has shown the confidence and persistence to command nearly every ball in the penalty area, and his communication and aggression in securing crosses have been impressive.

While Badr’s potential and recent performances make him a player to watch, his game needs sharpening in vital areas for him to take the next step into MLS, however.

Badr’s distribution has not always been precise enough to allow the Steel to capitalize on counterattacks against a sleeping defense. His distribution should improve with time and practice, but he will likely never become technically adept enough to act as a sweeper keeper.

While confident in claiming crosses and bouncing, errant balls in the penalty area, Badr is not the most proficient with the ball in his hands. Punching, parrying, kicking, slapping, you name it — Badr has done it, all to keep the ball out of the net. At times, however, these acrobatic, full body motions to knock the ball come across as Badr getting anxious or overeager to see the ball away from his own net. For example, his howler against Wilmington saw him claim a high, hanging cross toward the back post off a corner, only to drop it right at the feet of a poised attacker, who promptly blasted the ball into the back of the net. That poor handling cost the Steel two points.

Those are teachable moments, though. Let’s see how Badr learns. He has the youth, and he has the talent. He’s a player to keep your eyes on.


  1. pragmatist says:

    It’s nice to know we should have options when Europe comes calling for Blake.
    This article should also reinforce a major tenet of American Soccer: Don’t spend a ton of money on a keeper!!! They grow on trees in this country!
    I’m glad the Union never made that mistake…(wait…what?)

  2. Old Soccer Coach says:

    I agree Badr committed a howler against Wilmington, but if you look at the you tube video and re-watch the moment, you will see from his face that he knew he was going to carry the ball into the net himself unless he got rid of the ball. The misplay is not the drop, the misplay was the catch instead of a punch or a tip above and over the bar.
    It was a poorly judged initial decision, but an intelligent, highly aware, if unfortunate split second decision to try to rectify it. He deserves credit for quick thinking. In all the years I had to train my own keepers at levels below the varsity, I never thought to coach that specific set of circumstances.
    He cost the side two points on the season. But I wager he never makes that catch again.

    • der Fussballzuschauer says:

      I was taught very young if you moving backwards towards the goal, do not even THINK of catching the ball (so that they will never be a problem of carrying the ball over the goal line because of momentum, of course). I was taught the ONLY safe play is to palm the ball over the bar / around the post and happily concede the corner. But that was a long time ago so perhaps things have changed … On another note, I notice entirely too many USL goalkeepers flailing away at the ball with their feet in one-on-one situations inside the penalty box (such as the one the Pittsburgh Riverhounds netminder found himself in on the play that turned out to be Corey Burke’s goal for BSFC) … Bravely going down where it could get dangerous and skillfully snatching the ball with the hands seems to be a lost art.

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Sometimes, the commentators on the USL “livestreams” of the league’s games are primarily valuable for comic relief, as the knowledge about the sport varies hugely.
    The color man for Toronto FC II, however, knows wht he is doing. His name is Terry Dunfield and his CV includes not only Toronto FC but also a variety of teams in the British Isles.
    In the pre-match comments he made before the Steel game at the Ontario Soccer complex – if I happen to have remembered any element of the name correctly – he mentioned that Toronto’s version of turf played slow.
    I noticed that both running footsteps and on-the-carpet passes threw rooster tails of rubber particles the turf was so saturated with them. If I remember correctly, Dunfield used the phrase that the turf grabbed at the ball.
    When BAdr misjudged his timing and failed to sweeper-keeper away TFC2’s second goal, scored by the fast technical right flank midfielder off a long diagonal feed from their striker in the defensive half of their left channel, Dunfield offered the opinion that Badr had misread the speed of the pass on that specific turf.
    a mistake? Yes. it was the first time anyone on the Steel, with the possible exception of Ryan Richter who was with Toronto FC at one point, had ever played on that surface.

  4. So we’ve had Mondragon, then nobody rotating with nobody for a few years, and suddenly now we have enough quality keepers to fill out 2 rosters. There’s a trend though. They’re all shot stoppers first, with generally weak distribution (obviously at different development levels). Not sure how I feel about that yet, but at least we’ve identified the traits we value most.

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