A month into the 2018 USL season, Bethlehem Steel FC announced a signing that looked to be one for the future in 18-year-old Michee Ngalina.
The future became a reality for Ngalina as it took him four contests to find the back of the net against professionals. That ability to adjust to the professional game at a young age is what drove Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke to incorporate the youngest into the squad early.
“To adapt to this level at 18 is remarkable and to have five goals and a couple of assists,” Burke said. “He certainly stretches teams with his pace but he’s also very intelligent and will come underneath. He has soft feet, can catch it in those pockets which shows a maturity and commitment to work on and off the ball that is rare at that age. He is a truly determined person and cares a lot on his shoulders, certainly off the field, and does it in a way that you can’t help but respect. Any recognition he gets is understated.”
Standing 5’11 and 150 pounds, the native from the Democratic Republic of the Congo doesn’t come off as a threat. Toss a ball onto the pitch and immediately the talent is seen with crafty moves on the wing and an athleticism that is showcased in his signature backflip goal celebrations.
Not only has the USL taken notice but Ngalina has also caught the eyes of the Philadelphia Union as well, making two appearances during the club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run.
At just 18, Ngalina has nearly 1,300 minutes of valuable experience on the professional level and certainly worthy to be a part of the USL 20 Under 20. While we won’t be surprised if Ngalina rises sharply up this list next season, the future could see even more.
“I think the sky is the limit for him, you can see him with the Union next year in some capacity and you could see him in a bigger league at some point,” Burke said. “It’s a little scary to say that because he’s only 18 but he has the makings of a player that is really rare.”