Philadelphia Union II / Union / YSC Academy

The grass roots: Notes from Bethlehem and the Union Academy

Photo: 215 pix

After all Eastern Conference fixtures concluded in week 13, Bethlehem Steel stand at fifth in the conference table with 19 points taken from 13 games played. Rochester lay ahead of them by one point in fourth, and New York lay two points behind them in sixth. “Games Played” ranged from a minimum of 11 to a maximum of 14 for Eastern Conference as of last Sunday.  It is a 32-game, 30-week season.

Prior to last night’s match, won by the Steel against the Harrisburg City Islanders, the Islanders were in 15th and last place in the conference table with 10 points from 13 games. They lost Saturday evening June 17 to the Charlotte Independence who were opening their new stadium.

The newness of that stadium was obvious to anyone watching on YouTube, as the screen read “technical difficulties” for over two hours and showed no imagery — either from inside the venue or from the stock 2017 USL game-opening footage.  The franchise’s broadcast did not help its MLS expansion candidacy, although the earlier failure of its referendum for public funding support of an MLS-level stadium probably already ended it.

Harrisburg did not have Aaron Wheeler available against Charlotte or last night against the Steel. Wheeler was probably out due to injury, as he was noticeably limping when subbed off for Michael Olla in the 24th minute 11 days ago against Ottawa.  Wheeler matters a great deal to Harrisburg’s success. In his absence, Harrisburg has been blanked in four USL losses. They have only scored against the Union in the USOC match a week ago.

YSC Academy graduates the class of 2017

On Friday, seniors from the Philadelphia Union’s soccer academy graduated.

Sixteen excited, proud, thoughtful young men sat on the temporary stage constructed on the lower indoor pitch at YSC Sports. Two more listed on the program were away with the U. S. Men’s Under-18 National team at a tournament in Portugal.  One of the two listed postgraduates was absent.

Readers, especially soccer parents, remember U. S. Soccer eligibility uses the calendar year while academics reflect an agricultural one, a discrepancy that creates both PGs and eighth-graders at the academy, while integrating individuals from overseas educational systems also presents a challenge.

Courtesy YSC Academy’s Graduation Program

Graduate Post-Secondary Program
Omar Ayala Duquesne University
Freeman Dwamena California Polytechnic State University
Kalil El Medkhar University of Kentucky
Frederick Gil University of South Florida
Evan Godfrey Liberty University
Brandon Golden Fordham Universkty
Alexander Hajj Monmouth University
Juan Infante Gettysburg College
Michael Kalpokas Immaculata University
Dawson McCartney Dartmouth College
Mark McKenzie** Wake Forest University
Justin McMaster* Wake Forest University
Josue Monge University of South Florida
Emmanuel Perez* California Polytechnic State University
Matthew Real** Bethlehem Steel
Maximilien Sakiewicz University of Delaware
Aaron Schwartz Dartmouth College
Jahmali Waite Farleigh Dickinson University
RC Williams University of Pennsylvania
**Unable to attend due to US National Team commitment

Every speech but one focused on thanking classroom teachers, advisors, coaches and trainers, and siblings and parents, often in that sequence.  Dartmouth-bound 5’8” goalie Aaron Schwartz (see photo) broke the pattern to offer advice to the underclassmen, outlining how to achieve sustainable success when adopting attitudes to overcome others’ doubt.

Almost universally applicable was Josue Monge’s cogency when preparing to address his family, “Here come the waterworks.”

Personal vignettes with individual adults abounded.  For example, coach Iain Munro was teased about his Scottish accent, and math teacher Kelly Shank, lauded for converting a daunting expectation of difficulty to the surprise of success.

Respect for family privacy precludes mentioning some other specific challenges.

The public-speaking poise and pride of both young men from Jamaica, Justin McMaster and Jahmali Waite, was noteworthy among their well-performing peers. Waite gave a “shout out” to Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who helped him decide to come to Pennsylvania.

Earnie Stewart, Jim Curtin and Mike Sorber bussed the entire first team (and technical staff) from Chester to attend in their white Union polo shirts while several current members of Reading United provided a good color contrast in their deep blue polos. PSP suspects they were the academy alumni on coach Steve Hogan’s squad. And the academy underclassmen were in the back, closest to the after-ceremony food.

Only the Steel were missing, as they were in Montclair, N.J. preparing to beat Red Bulls II for the first time that night.

One Comment

  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    5’8″ goalie… reminds me when I was a kid of Mexican keeper Jorge Campos… Good Luck man! Wish you the best!

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