Head Coach Brendan Burke’s squad embarked on another preseason trip earlier this week, heading out for northern Virginia to face DC United’s new affiliate Loudoun United FC of the USL Championship and Richmond Kickers of USL League One. Burke noted in his weekly media call that there are more USL teams affiliated with Major League Soccer clubs.
“First off, I think it’s a great sign of what our ownership recognized about three or four years back now, that we were kind of on the leading edge of the youth development front, along with a couple of the west-coast teams. Montreal and Toronto were there with us as well, or maybe even ahead of us, New York [Red Bulls] I would throw in that group, but it’s great to see big, established clubs like D.C. [United] come on board as well with second teams,” said Burke. “It’s the future of the game in this country and I’m glad that they are playing at the level that they are playing at. We’re not really sure what [USL] League One is going to bring yet, but we know exactly what [USL] Championship brings. It’s really good to have counterparts in our division, so [Loudoun] serves as a good measuring stick for us, along with New York [Red Bulls] now.”
Steel FC still has eight of the USL-required 12 players signed to the club’s roster. Burke had previously assured media that more signings were on the way. When asked if the club would be above the league-required 12 players, Burke responded that “Yeah I think we will be this year. Mainly because we’ve doubled down on our efforts to make sure that we get some of our [Union] Academy talents on the right track to their professional careers as well, sometimes a little sooner than we have in the past as well. We need to supplement that with some guys that are ready to be exposed to this level. Some of those guys aren’t ready to be exposed to this level.”
Burke also responded to questions about how the club’s current style of play responds to an opposition’s low block. “You have to stay on top of them,” said Burke. “I think the first team showed that well last night if you were able to watch the stream. D.C. [United] got pushed deeper and deeper and basically killed any transition points in the second half when they really got on top of the game.”
Reflecting on his team’s match against Villanova, the head coach pointed to striker Faris’ good day as a sign of positive growth. “I thought there were some guys that stood out on the day. Guys like Faris showed well, and there were a number of others in there. With a goal and an assist, and he set up a couple of others that could’ve been goals. I thought that was a bright day.”
Steel FC returns to action Friday and Sunday as they face Richmond Kickers and Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who they defeated in the first round of the USL playoffs last season. The home season for Brendan Burke’s side begins on March 16 at Talen Energy Stadium when they welcome North Carolina FC.