So what’s this Bethlehem Steel thing all about? I caught up with Evan Villella (@villellaBSFC) of the Brotherly Game and The USL Show podcast to get the intel on tomorrow’s Nashville SC opponent.
For Club and Country: What were the expectations for the Steel heading into the season. Through two matches, have those been adjusted at all?
Evan Villella: Heading in, I think our expectations were to build on a successful 2017. This year I think if we get back to the playoffs that would be great, and I’d imagine the organization wants us to groom Brandon Allen and Brandon Aubrey for MLS next year
FCAC: Who are some of the top players to look out for offensively and defensively? How much roster turnover was there from last year?
EV: Our turnover and the guys to look out for are pretty much intertwined. We “lost” Cory Burke to the first team and Seku Conneh is actually gone to Korea. Hugh Roberts was a workhorse at the back and I wasn’t thrilled to see him go. That being said we brought in Brandon Allen and Brandon Aubrey as well as a few MLS draft picks. Allen almost needs no introduction but in short he destroyed USL two years ago and then got snubbed in Minnesota on loan last year. Aubrey was a TFC draft pick and he anchored TFC2’s backline before coming over to be our one consistent pieces in the back. We also have Union draft picks Mike Catalano (from U of Wisconsin and last year’s Big Ten POTY) and Aidan Apodaca (Cal Baptist, set the NCAA record for goals in a season at any division with 29) as well as NYCFC pick AJ Paterson (Wright State) and LA Galaxy pick Drew Skundrich (questionable for tomorrow but was on the team for that three year national title stretch, co-captain on the last two teams).
FCAC: What has the relationship with the Union been like? Have players moved up to MLS from the Steel (or been loaned down from the Union) on a regular basis?
EV: So from Bethlehem to the Union has paid off tremendously. Derrick Jones, Cory Burke, Fabian Herbers, Auston Trusty, Anthony Fontana, Matt Real and Mark McKenzie are all former Steel guys in various stages. The other way around we get a good amount of help depending what’s going on with the first team. Tomorrow it looks like mostly USL/Academy boys though, given Real, McKenzie and Fontana are all in Colorado currently. Overall though, it’s been a really rewarding experiment for everyone.
FCAC: What are the Steel expecting to experience in their first game against a club that’s new to USL?
EV: We know a good bit about a few of your guys. Taylor [Washington] and Bolu [Akinyode] were with us our first year but we’re expecting a battle in midfield with a decently physical team. It really might come down to whoever can execute first or better.
FCAC: What do expect the starting lineup to be? Any specific predictions for the game (including a result)?
EV: The best I can do is send you what I get on the team sheet tomorrow unfortunately, but I think it’ll be mostly USL guys. If you’re worried about Alejandro Bedoya or CJ Sapong, don’t be haha. Prediction is 3-1.
Thanks again to Evan for doing this, especially on a bit of short notice. Make sure to check him out on Twitter @villellaBSFC and all the outlets he contributes to.