This season has seen the affiliation between Bethlehem Steel FC and the MLS’s Philadelphia Union prove beneficial for both sides at the midpoint of the 2017 campaign. While Steel FC sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference Standings and currently sports the conference’s longest unbeaten streak, numerous MLS players have seen time with the squad, gaining valuable game experience and form.
In 2017, 17 players from the Union have featured with Steel FC, topping last year’s partnership that saw only 12 appear in the Lehigh Valley. While all the players have assisted in helping Steel FC become set numerous records in their second season, a few Union players have stood out.
The 22-year-old has started to showcase what made him the 2016 MAC Player of the Year over the past month. Najem has played a huge role in Steel FC’s season, starting in 12 matches in 2017. After adjusting to professional soccer over the first few months of the season, Najem has been locked in over since facing off against his former organization, the New York Red Bulls. Against the New Jersey club’s USL affiliate, the midfielder tallied his first professional goal on the road at New York Red Bulls II and followed up with an incredible assist on a Santi Moar goal. The performance earned him a spot on the USL’s Team of the Week. Since the match, Najem has added a pair of assists to tie the club’s single-season record.
McGuire has been a brick wall for the Steel FC defense, making 45 saves and collecting five clean sheets in his rookie campaign. In 12 starts with the club, McGuire has allowed only 10 goals, ranking fifth in the USL with a small 0.83 goals against average. This stellar play has come with an ever-changing cast of defenders, with McGuire directing nine different defensive backs in his starts. McGuire has been locked in since his stellar start at BMO Field against Toronto FC II, where he made a career-high seven saves in route to an appearance in the USL’s Team of the Week. In his last three starts, McGuire has shut down New York Red Bulls II twice, something most fans are delighted to see.
Jones has been a mainstay for Steel FC this season, leading the team with 1,250 minutes played at right back. The 23-year-old has been a part of five Steel FC shutouts while leading the squad with 659 passes and 24 tackles. Jones’ jumped into the spotlight a few weeks ago, scoring a stunning free kick goal from distance against the Richmond Kickers that was nominated for Goal of the Week. Jones has had to utilize his combination of speed and timely tackling to lock down opposing scorers and can be counted on for at least two tackles that prevent a scoring chance per match.
A prime example of the partnership between Steel FC and the Philadelphia Union, Ken Tribbett’s time in the USL has only gotten better each match. After playing center back exclusively last season, where he appeared 22 times with the Union, Tribbett’s time with Steel FC has been split between central midfield (five matches) and center back (four matches) Tribbett started in the season opener for Steel FC at center back against the Rochester Rhinos and overall three times at the position before shifting to a new spot on the pitch. On the road at Harrisburg City Islanders on May 28th, the 24-year-old pushed up the field to a defensive midfielder. In five matches at that spot, Steel FC has gone 4-0-1 and Tribbett tallied an assist.