Feature / Philadelphia Union II

James Chambers set Steel records on Saturday

Photo Credit: Marjorie Elzey

It wasn’t the result Bethlehem Steel captain, James Chambers wanted against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, but it was still a big night for the captain. As the most veteran player for the club, Chambers became the first player to play in 100 matches for the Steel on Saturday. He also set the club record for most career goals in the very same match.

Chambers has been with Bethlehem since the club’s inauguration, joining the Steel on January 29, 2016 as a free transfer. From 2004 to 2015, the Irishman played professionally for various clubs in England and Ireland before coming to the United States and the USL right before he turned 29. Chambers is the only player remaining from the team’s first season roster and he’s been Bethlehem’s captain since the final regular season match of 2016.

So far, the Steel have played 112 matches in their three and a half seasons to date. James Chambers has only missed 12 matches for the club, and has played a total of 8,426‬ minutes in a Steel jersey. Out of his 100 matches with the club, the captain has started in a total of 94 games.

The 100th match

Courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC

Being back at Goodman Stadium for Chambers’ 100th match was fitting as the Lehigh Valley fans had banners and signs hanging around the stadium, chanting their support of their team’s captain. Before the match, Chambers was honored by the club as head coach Brendan Burke and assistant coach Stephen Hogan gave him the special 100 jersey at midfield.

“It’s an occasion all right, but it’s more about the game, to be honest. You forget about it and then the game starts.” – James Chambers

Unfortunately, the game started off to a rocky start for the Steel. Tampa Bay was winning 2-0 by the 35th minute of the match, the home team seemed to be scrambling a bit against the first-place team in the eastern conference. The second half was basically the complete opposite, the Steel came out with more energy and confidence, generating some real chances against formerly beloved Steel keeper Lord Helmet, John McCarthy.

The new club goal record

In stoppage time Chambers set another record. After Zach Zandi was taken down in the box, Bethlehem was awarded a penalty kick that the veteran captain stepped up to take. With 15 goals each, Chambers was tied with Cory Burke for most goals for the club. Chambers buried the penalty and now leads the club in goals. While it wasn’t enough for Bethlehem to catch Tampa Bay, it was still a momentous night for the humble veteran.

“A goal’s a goal. It’s nice, but it didn’t really count for anything because we didn’t win the game.” – James Chambers

But setting club records isn’t what James Chambers is about. As a Union Academy coach, he’s a clear leader on and off the field, and while he may be the 32-year-old captain in a locker room full of guys in their teens and early 20’s, he takes his role and responsibilities seriously. It may be a bit of a love-hate relationship, but Chambers has the respect of his young teammates and knows that in a professional game, everyone is their for jobs and to get to a higher level.

While the Steel have struggled a bit this year, the captain is very aware of their position but also notes that the team has gotten progressively younger every year. The project has changed this season and Bethlehem isn’t just about developing players for the Union, they’re trying to develop players with a winning mentality for the Union now, Chambers says. To do that, everyone will have to keep pushing to continue to get better and grow as a group.

The Steel and their record-setting captain will have their next chance for a win on Friday at 7:00pm against Hartford Athletic.

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