Philadelphia Union II / Report

The Steel’s preseason experiment

Image courtesy Steel Communications

Saturday afternoon the 2018 Bethelehm Steel FC conducted the first preseason “game-like event” at YSC Academy in Wayne against FC Motown of the NPSL from Morristown, NJ.

If the only thing that matters is whether you score more goals than the opponent, the Steel scored 3 and Motown scored 4, but the goals are not the story.

An experiment

The story is the sports science training experiment that the Steel is running this preseason on behalf of the first team. They will discover whether a new technique is a more effective preseason conditioning method. The new approach focuses on the principle the organization uses for training the day before a game and applies it to building up game conditioning. Namely, short bursts of intense activity interspersed with recovery.

For the FC Motown event, the Steel’s 21 field players were divided into two groups that rotated into and out of the match every 15 minutes. Two groups of players rotated in for each other three times for fifteen minutes at a time.

Next game the length of the period will increase and the number of rotations will shrink, since game length will remain the same.

Comparing the new pattern to how the first-team conducted its first preseason event, the Steel divided 21 field players into two groups and played 6 15-minute intervals. The Union divided 32 field players into three groups and played 3 continuous 45-minute periods.

How does one 45-minute effort compare to three 15-minute ones? We will  hear the organization’s conclusions in five weeks.

The scrimmage

As expected from a first preseason scrimmage, when head coach Brendan Burke was asked what he could share from what he learned, he responded he had no idea where to start. Quite appropriately, he did not commit himself to much tactically before breaking down the tape, aside from the generality that there was a a lot to improve.

He commended the three draft picks, calling Mike Catalano and Matt Danilack “steady” and singling out forward Aidan Apodaca for his intensity, pace of play, and effort.

Apodaca creates separation

Apodaca played with group 2, and did not get much service, but scored the third goal about 3 minutes from time on a very nice through ball, and then came within a gnat’s eyelash of leveling things from a cross at the death.

A presumed starter, striker Brandon Allen, has a challenging competition ahead of him against Apodaca that will make both men better. The competition winner is not a foregone conclusion, it seems to us.

Burke was properly noncommittal about the current group of trialists who have been in camp for two weeks and have now had game conditions to show what they can do. The usual Union-Steel pattern is a two-week period before a new group begins the next cycle. Last year two survived all the cycles from beginning to end and were joined by another in the middle. Only one of those three is still with the club, right back Matt Mahoney.

The Steel’s 21-person squad was filled out with academy players some of whom may see time with the Steel as circumstance dictates this summer. Tomas Romero, back from Florida played the full ninety minutes in goal, since he saw no game time in Clearwater. (Brenden Aaronson and Michael Pellegrino did not dress for the Steel on the day.) Seth Kuhn started at left back and did a credible job. The opposing coach tested him by switching his better flank player into his channel and he held up. Left channel attacker Issa Rayyan gave his opponent fits consistently. (Santi Moar was present but in civvies on the sideline.) And Tonny Temple was the right channel attacker, seeing his first Steel minutes against extramural opposition. (Chris Nanco started at attacking center mid.)

Three Points:
  1. Not surprisingly for a greater New York area team, Motown seemed to know about Brandon Allen and were collapsing on him. The tactic meant that in the seventh minute James Chambers had enough time to settle a rebound, invite the Irish prime minister for a pint, and then shoot just under the bar from outside the area to open the scoring.

2. Coach Burke characterized the event as perfect for an opening scrimmage, intensely competitive but not outlandishly out of hand for either side. Motown – actually its predecessor – reached out to the Steel last year for such a match, and their success in the open cup that took them up the bracket to face the Rochester Rhinos got the organization’s attention. The visitors had USL experience and commitment to being a serious opponent. A relationship might develop.

3. The first Steel group generally, and its center-back pairing especially, played smoothly and effectively together. They clearly controlled their portions of the match against the visitors. Both Brandon Aubrey on the right and Matt Danilack on the left showed the ability to deliver accurate long balls to wingers against the level of pressure provided by Motown. They mixed such deliveries with shorter balls to the captain and to center mid Mike Catalano who in turn started the attack. In the second half, Catalano was credible in this situation as a defensive center mid. He could be a depth piece behind Chambers in case of need.

Bethlehem Steel FC

Group One: Matt Mahoney, Brandon Aubrey, Matt Danilack***, Seth Kuhn*; James Chambers, Mike Catalano***; Tonny Temple*. Chris Nanco, Issa Rayyan*; Brandon Allen.
Group Two: Nyk Sessock*, Ben Ofeimu*, Maxi Schenfeld**, Mickey George**; Daniel Bowkette**, A. J. Paterson**; Jeremy Rafanello*, Darius Lewis*, Khesanio Hall*; Aidan Apodaca***.
Goalkeeper: Tomas Romero* Extra: Elvis Amoh** ( *Academy **Trialist ***Draft pick )

FC Motown Celtics

Starters: Ryan Baird; Mike Olla, Dave Nigro, Kene Eze; Marcus Hackett, Emmo Lawrence, Matt Nigro, Sammy Gehman; Mitch Lurie, Hani Nasr, Chris Riordan. Substitutes: Joaquin Escudero, James Greco, Rodrigo Santiago, Andy Imoh, Andres Berriel, Aidan Ceishert, Max Garcia

Scoring Summary

Bethlehem:       7th minute       James Chambers
Motown:          18th minute       Matt Nigro
Motown:          26th minute       Matt Nigro
Bethlehem:      63rd minute      Elvis Amoh
Motown:           75th minute       Max Garcia
Motown:           77th minute       Emerson Lawrence

Bethlehem:      88th minute        Aidan Apodaca


  1. I will be very interested to see the results in five weeks or so. Thanks!

  2. Might want to change the typo in the title. It makes “experiment” almost look like “excrement.” Very unfortunate typo! 😉

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