Analysis / Philadelphia Union II

Ernst Tanner’s Bethlehem “to do” list

Feature Photo courtesy YouTube

Ernst Tanner must fill two rosters between now and the first whistle of preseason.

  •  Five or six more unknowns are the minimum to bring the first team to 30 or 31, given expected internal promotions.
  • Six for Bethlehem would bring the Steel to 15 or so, given similar expectations. (See bullet four below to make the arithmetic work.)

Bethlehem’s roster size will not expand, as the Sporting Director’s spending money on first-team transfer fees is more important than the farm team’s salary budget. Head coach Brendan Burke has said in the past that he does not want Bethlehem’s own group to be large, to avoid diluting individual teaching.


In Steel FC planning, the never-predictable variable is the number of first-team reserves sent down to play. Burke and assistant coach Steve Hogan do not plan for these until they become known.

Here are the predictable variables:

  • Selmir Miscic has appeared seven times but started only thrice for the Academy U19s . He will practice daily with Bethlehem but is not yet ready for serious professional game responsibility.
  • Of the other 14 roster spots, Faris, Saed Diaz, and Zach Zandi are known and James Chambers is strongly presumed.
  • At the beginning of the season, three or four teenage first-teamers will come down regularly for games:
    • Brenden Aaronson will be an attacking midfielder;
    • Anthony Fontana will be a central midfielder;
    • Michee Ngalina will be a flank attacker,and
    • Ben Ofeimu will be a center back.
  • Three teenage Academy players traveled last fall with Bethlehem to the playoff games in Pittsburgh and Louisville for the six away practices. Since they have neither played nor dressed for Steel FC we do not name them. We assume they will be with the Steel.
    • Academy 1 is a center back.
    • Academy 2 is an attacker,
    • Academy 3 plays in the left channel.
  • There are six or seven slots to fill for practices and three or four for games.
  • Freshly-returned, newly-titled Director of Goalkeeping Oka Nikolov will provide keepers.

Bethlehem needs a starting right back, and, perhaps, a third starting center back for “tactical flexibility.”  Game day bench depth will be augmented by academy players on “zero dollar” USL-C contracts.

More important is creating the daily teaching environment in practice. Six or seven additional field players must be found for that.

When needed, Steel practice numbers are supplemented by academy players, and Reading players when available. The organization coordinates the daily logistics seamlessly among the teams and the schoolhouse.

Where will Bethlehem find what it needs?

Three sources are listed in order of importance.

  • Other Philadelphia Union Academy players beyond those already mentioned (see above comment about identifying)
  • International teenagers (extra USL-C international slots have been tradable since last season)
  • The NCAA, (last because players are older)

Academy possibilities are well-known within the organization.

Discovering international teenagers occurs simultaneously with discovering international first-teamers, for example, Saed Diaz.

For the NCAA twenty-somethings the Union will have five picks in the Superdraft: 13, 29, 37, 61, and 85 at the moment.  Coach Burke will use NCAA players to fill the Bethlehem needs not otherwise addressed.

A note of caution

It is difficult to sign an underage international teenager while satisfying United States legal requirements. Any minor’s parents must be physically present here and execute their paperwork simultaneously with that of their child. Pragmatically, international signings have waited for 18th birthdays.

The public  may learn the moves made for NCAA players before it hears of international teenagers, but the international ones are known internally long beforehand. Coach Burke knew of Michee Ngalina and Faris on the first day of 2018’s preseason, months in advance of the public announcements.


  1. Guess per Tannenwald no draft picks for Steel.
    Different topic
    Weren’t mls Usl teams supposed to be tier 3 or whatever they call it. Thought idea was to make non mls Usl teams(mouthful) in a class above thus paving way for pro,rel at 1 and 2.
    Seems the mls owned teams have advantage with dropping in first team players at will.
    Would steel have made playoffs without first team contributions? Hard to say, right?
    Honestly I prefer mls second teams as a triple a farm team. Promote players not teams. But as long as people get wet dreams of pro,rel then stop cutting it off at the knees and at least try.

  2. WeAreSteel2K19 says:

    “Would steel have made playoffs without first team contributions?”

    It depends what you consider “first team.” McCarthy was the only Union regular. Michee and Real were a big part of the squad but they hardly played for the Union last year. Aaronson was an academy player until late in the season. The core of Chambers, Santi, Mahoney, Aubrey, Faris were all USL players.

    I would say yes.

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