Feature / Philadelphia Union II

Issa Rayyan’s ever-changing position with the Steel

Photo Credit: Sean Griswold

If you were to look back at the Bethehem Steel’s lineups over the past two months, you’ll see that Issa Rayyan has become quite the utility player. Technically listed as a midfielder, Brendan Burke has played him in just about every position on the field. Of course not every position was a good fit, but recently Rayyan has been proving his versatility and has found more than a few positions he can play well.


As one of Bethlehem’s best play makers, don’t be shocked to hear that Rayyan can play attacking midfielder well. He can read the field amazingly well to set up his teammates and make runs, plus he’s got some fancy footwork skills and the speed to make him dangerous on the sidelines.

Midfield is his regular position and has been where Rayyan has made the most appearances this season. In the Steel’s most recent match against Louisville City on July 20th, he returned to the midfield after starting as a striker the previous few matches. With Michee Ngalina out and the Steel’s defense playing poorly, Rayyan was used to bolster the defense. He’s got speed on his side and most importantly, he always willingly tracks back to offer the defense more support. It’s likely where he’ll stay for a while as Ngalina recovers and it’s a natural fit.

While he’s had a few off matches, Rayyan has seemed to hit his stride in the Steel’s midfield this season, especially as an attacking midfielder.


Rayyan has started as striker three times for the Steel so far this season. In his third start against NYRBII, Rayyan scored two goals in twelve minutes. Both goals were beautiful so it’s not much of a stretch to say he’s a pretty good striker, especially when the Steel are struggling to bury balls in the back of the net. Throughout June and early July, Bethlehem struggled to score and needed to shake things up in their attack. Burke put Rayyan up top with different strikers in an effort to get some goals, and it kind of paid off.

Striker isn’t Rayyan’s usual spot on the field, but he has the skills to score goals and that’s what his team needed. He hasn’t made another appearance as striker since the match on July 10th and it’s probably not likely that Rayyan will return as a starting striker, but Burke always knows that he can put him up top if necessary.


Usually one of Bethlehem’s most consistently strong players, Rayyan has been very hit-or-miss when he plays defense. Not a big surprise since he’s very attack-minded and with his footwork skills, passing isn’t really Rayyan’s forte. Rayyan has the willingness to get back and play defense as a midfielder, but his short time playing as a defender did not go very well.

The last time Rayyan played defense was back in early June when the Steel played at La Salle’s stadium. In a 4-1 loss to Nashville on June 9th during a long winless streak, Bethlehem was missing some top players due to international duty and injuries. The defense was especially struggling without Matt Real and others on the first team, so Issa Rayyan was used as a last minute defender. It wasn’t much of a stretch for a midfielder to drop back to defense, but losing Rayyan’s play making abilities and attacking mindset cost the Steel chances to score goals and only extended their winless streak.

Rayyan is the only player to have bounced all over the field this season for the Steel. With his position constantly changing, Rayyan has really proven his worth in midfield and in the Steel’s offense. Now he’s Burke’s highly skilled utility player, proving invaluable and adaptable to his team and their needs.

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