Local Spotlight

Local Spotlight: From Temple to Bethlehem, Matthew Mahoney provides character and consistency

Photo: Brett Hansbauer

Matthew Mahoney has often been labeled a “character player” by Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke throughout this past season. Which means his demeanor on and off the field is one a coach cherishes and covets. Whether Mahoney is training with fellow teammates or simply hanging out in the locker room, he provides a positive and infectious personality that serves as a sort of gelling agent for the young squad.

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC – Matthew Mahoney signed his professional contract on March 3, 2017 with Bethlehem Steel FC.

Beginnings in the Empire State

Mahoney was born in Buffalo, New York. As the middle child of five with two older sisters and two younger brothers, soccer was prevalent within the Mahoney household. Both parents continue to play to this day as they did their whole lives, and his two older sisters enjoyed soccer at the college level. Mahoney’s younger brothers were soccer players all the way through their high school days but no longer play.

“I played baseball and basketball also” Mahoney explained when asked if he dabbled in other sports growing up. When asked if he gained any relatable skills that transfer back over to the soccer field he explained all sports are connected and it is hard to argue his point.

“I think they’re all interrelated. They all have a team aspect to them – and all sports, whether it’s defense or offense, it’s all about being in rhythm with your teammates” explained Mahoney. Seems like Matt learned early on in his sporting days just how important it is to connect with fellow teammates – something he truly excels at currently with Bethlehem.

Mahoney started organized soccer at age five for his local club in Poughkeepsie, and he has progressed ever since. As a seventh grader at age 13, Mahoney began playing with the New York Red Bull Academy. Mahoney explained his time with Red Bull Academy provided him with several great memories. Those memories include training with the Argentinian National Team a few years back and meeting living legend Messi and his teammate Angel Di Maria.  He also met Juan Pablo Angel and current head coach of USL squad New York Red Bull II, John Wolyniec. “That was a lot of fun.  It [Red Bull Academy] opened a lot of cool experiences and opportunities,” concluded Mahoney.

After three years within the Academy in New York, Mahoney went to play for New York Cosmos/BW Gotchee Academy for two years until 2013. Then came the next step: college ball.

College soccer in North Philly

How did a New York guy end up joining a North Philadelphia soccer team? “Well, it was actually a last second decision,” started Mahoney when asked how he ended up at Temple University the fall of 2013.  “I was committed to Holy Cross [about half hour west of Boston] but that kind of fell through. . . the assistant coach at Temple had contacted me prior. So I contacted him again and it worked out for the better,” continued Mahoney. After all Temple provides more competition on the field and offers a great education along with it.

Photo courtesy of Temple News – Mahoney sporting the captain’s armband during his TU days.

Mahoney majored in Kinesiology and achieved Honor Roll status all four years sporting a GPA above 3.0. Mahoney took full advantage of the education and opportunity to showcase his soccer skills at Temple. His knowledge of Exercise Science and Kinesiology proved very handy following his final year at TU.

Mahoney was the team’s captain his junior and senior season at Temple. He played in every single collegiate game while at Temple dating back to his freshman season. During his four years there, he contributed to three 10-win seasons. His final year, he contributed to a back-line that conceded only three total goals at home in a lengthy unbeaten streak.

“I was one of the older guys, a leader for the other guys, started every game, [playing with] a lot of confidence. . .” Mahoney said.

Mahoney adjusted to Philadelphia with little trouble in addition to his seamless transitions on the soccer pitch. When asked if he knew of the rich sports history that is Philadelphia he admitted “I honestly didn’t know anything about Philly sports or the history of it or anything, so its been brand new to me. But I liked it when I got here. The city is awesome and being so close to it, the atmosphere surrounding all the sports teams. . . I love it.”

March 2017 – Mahoney to Bethlehem

Mahoney’s route to trial with Bethlehem Steel FC was a bit more roundabout than one would think. Last summer Mahoney utilized his hard-work in the classroom while at Temple by interning with the Philadelphia Union in Exercise Science last summer. He succeeded all summer in his role deploying his expertise in strength and condition specifically.

While interning Mahoney was able to make more than a few connections that would prove very handy following his time with the Union. One such connection was with current Assistant Coach B.J. Callaghan, who joined the first team under Jim Curtin in 2014. Mahoney and Callaghan would reconnect following the conclusion of the internship. Their re-connection granted a new opportunity for Mahoney to tackle: a try out with Bethlehem Steel FC and a chance at a professional soccer contract.

Mahoney’s trial began with the start of the 2017 season in February, and his stock quietly rose playing the majority of minutes at right-back. The first week of March arrived and with it a professional contract for the former Temple University captain. Mahoney signed on March 3rd, and another step was made toward his ultimate goal of playing in the MLS.

Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC. Mahoney during a training session sporting his “fitbit” style watch to stay on top of his fitness.

Continued improvement is clear to see

Matt Mahoney made his professional debut back on May 13th as a sub in the 83rd minute against Toronto FC II which resulted in a 1-0 road victory for Steel FC. He then started the next match on the road against Cincinnati FC on May 20th. So far this season, Mahoney has been apart of the match-day 18-man roster 16 times making seven appearances, three as a starter.

Perhaps the best game of Mahoney’s first season occurred August 5th when Bethlehem traveled to Ottawa to secure an important road victory. Starting and playing all 90+ minutes at right back, Mahoney held steady along with his fellow back-line defenders after allowing a fluky own-goal to secure a W. Throughout the match Mahoney attempted and even completed a few key passes. These attempts to link up via the long ball are a sign that Mahoney is playing with an increase in confidence and proves to be a sign of improvement.

As skilled as Mahoney proves to be on the pitch, his abilities to interact and affect his teammates in a positive way is just as important. Head Coach Brendan Burke has been asked intermittently throughout the season about his young defender and has responded positively each time. When asked three weeks about Mahoney’s improvements following the club’s road win in Ottawa Burke stated “Matt is a guy we’ve talked about as a character guy and he is.  He showed it again. . . he won a vast majority of his challenges, he kept the game in front of him, and also hit a few key passes.” Burke added that those key passes were not necessarily something that the former Temple Owl had in his arsenal a few months prior.

On Mahoney’s improvements Burke said “I think that just comes through his dedication and the way he trains. He’s just a really fun kid to have around your environment because he absorbs so much so quickly.”

 

2 Comments

  1. Chuck McClain says:

    great job Matt really enjoyed reading your articles.Keep the articles coming.

  2. Old Soccer Coach says:

    A technical quibble about the key passes. At least one was an on-carpet through ball, not a long ball over the top.
    .
    Appreciate the in-depth looks you are adding to the coverage of the Steel.

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