Thoughts on Union trialist Ibrahim Conteh

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union Communications

The Delco Times’ Matt De George has identified the Union’s trialist in preseason camp as Sierre Leone international midfielder Ibrahim Conteh.

Conteh is 23 years old and, according to, is a central midfielder who can play as an 8, a 10, or a second striker. For the last five years, Conteh has plied his trade for various clubs in Indonesia. He has two caps for the Sierra Leone international team.

He provides cover for the organization in two ways during preseason, possibly longer.


Conteh covers Ilsinho’s absence and the possibility he might choose not to return.

The Brazilian will turn 35 years old this season and – judging by the apparent tone of Ernst Tanner’s recent comments about his contract – has been given a take it or leave it offer.

He fits neither the 4-4-2 diamond nor the 4-2-2-2, and those shapes will be primary this season in a way they could not be last year.

So Conteh provides cover against Ilsinho choosing a new path.

The attack

The second reason Conteh is in camp may be that the Union are quite thin at striker. The first team totals four forwards to cover the two starting spots, since the fifth remains unavailable until early May in the best-case scenario.

  • Kacper Przybylko is recovering from an inexactly specified foot injury. Properly cautious avoidance of artificial turf this week signals that the club is continuing to be delicate in managing his health.
  • Sergio Santos spent last year adjusting to MLS, as have so many before him.
  • Andrew Wooten did the same, only he started in mid-season.
  • Michee Ngalina was on unrecallable loan to USLC last season, so is even less proven.
  • Cory Burke, while now able to see the light at the end of the tunnel of his international paperwork purgatory, is still in that tunnel until early May. The hope is that his loan in Austria will give him the practice and game environment that will make up the significant conditioning difference between the Jamaican top flight and MLS.

Conteh can practice as a second striker should the need arise, and perhaps play games there as well.

About trialists

In past years, trialists with Keystone Sports’ professional teams (both the Union and the former Bethlehem Steel) have stayed with their clubs in renewable, two-week cycles. 2019 saw many fewer trialists because select Academy players went to Florida with the second team instead. Previously, trialists had provided the minimal numbers of bodies needed for practice while the players slotted for those particular roles had been trying to make the first team. Having everyone in the same camp eliminated that need.

Also, trialing is one way to extend the courtesy of practice opportunities to stay sharp while waiting for chances elsewhere, as is happening as a favor to Ernst Tanner and Cory Burke through his short-term loan. It is possible that bringing in Conteh might be a favor to one of Tanner’s connections in Africa.


  1. Thanks for the information, Tim!
    The video footage I watched yesterday showed some favorable and unfavorable moments.
    For anyone who observed today’s practice session, how did his first touch look to you? And passing accuracy?

  2. Matt McClain says:

    Great stuff Tim!

  3. Since we’re talking about an non-U.S. citizen player…
    How does Inter Miami get TWO players their green cards after signing them only six months ago?!?!
    From Twitter: “Inter Miami CF midfielder Matías Pellegrini and forward Julián Carranza have received their green cards, opening up two more international roster slots for the club.”
    Is it time for Union and their players to consider using different immigration lawyers?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


%d bloggers like this: