Every athlete’s road to getting appearing in a match is unique and full of hard work. When the moment finally comes, nerves typically take over and it can take some time for them to subside. For Bethlehem Steel FC forward Chris Nanco, the nerves went away quickly as within a matter of minutes as the 22-year-old notched his first professional goal just five minutes into his pro debut.
“I didn’t know my first goal would come so quickly into the match,” Nanco said. “I just wanted to come onto the field and somehow make an impact and raise the intensity with my speed. I’m really glad that everything worked out the way it did and getting that first goal was something special for me.”
A third round selection by the Philadelphia Union in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Nanco joined Steel FC officially on March 8 and spent the preseason working to showcase his skills that were widely seen at Syracuse University the past four seasons. During his time at Syracuse, Nanco made 84 appearances, 80 starts and scored 20 goals overall. In his final season, Nanco led the team with seven goals. With all the collegiate success on his resume, Nanco joined a team that included numerous scoring options but Nanco was eager to compete.
“When I joined Bethlehem Steel FC I knew that would have to fight for a spot because of the amount of talented players that would be in the mix for playing time.” Nanco said.
After not making the club’s match day 18-player roster in the season opener against the Rochester Rhinos on April 1, Nanco continued to work hard and earned a spot on the bench the following week against FC Cincinnati. The natural progression continued with Nanco finding out prior to the match some bigger news.
“The coaching staff told me last week that it had put forward my best week of training and that I could be given a chance to play on Saturday,” Nanco said. “When I finally heard my number being called, I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity.”
Nanco made his professional debut in the 59th minute on the road at Harrisburg City Islanders, replacing Philadelphia Union midfielder Adam Najem. With the club trailing 2-1, Nanco looked to just impact the game any way he could. That impact was immediate, as the Canadian delivered the game-tying goal in the 64th minute, just four minutes and 46 seconds after taking to the field.
“We work a lot on finishing in practice and throughout my career I’ve always tried to focus on finishing the next opportunity that comes my way,” Nanco said. “I saw an opportunity to get behind the back line and I took it. Getting the defender turned is something that I try and have happen but the flick on from Seku (Conneh) really helped set up the play.”
Nanco and the rest of Bethlehem Steel FC return to Goodman Stadium this Sunday, April 23, when they host Orlando City B. The match is also Steel FC’s Family Day, with fun, family activities including face painting, handcrafted balloon art, inflatables for children and a halftime t-shirt launch among other things planned for the afternoon. A special family package can be purchased online here or by calling the ticket office at 844-STEELFC.