Bethlehem Steel’s first match at Talen Energy Stadium will be exciting because it’s a home opener against an energetic and difficult opponent in North Carolina FC (Saturday March 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET).
But for two former Union academy players – and current best friends – that grew up dreaming of stepping on the Talen turf as professionals, the match will have even more significance.
“Me and Ben both came through the Residency together,” Issa Rayyan said recently when asked about stepping onto the field with Ben Ofeimu. “I’ve lived with him for three years and we’re both here now.
“Last game I played right beside him as right back and he was center back. So we’re going to play the home-opener at Talen Energy Stadium and we’re going to have our house mom that we lived with last year and his mom is going to come up. It’s going to be nice. We know that everyone is going to be watching, so it’s going to be great to play in front of the fans. It’s going to be a great game.”
Ofeimu had a similar reaction, adding that “Issa has been with me since the start and he’s like family now. To go through the steps with him makes it a lot easier. Whenever I’m down he always picks me up and when he’s down I pick him up. We just help each other and we’re trying to get to the top together.”
“It’s always been a dream of mine since I’ve been here. It’s a beautiful stadium and a beautiful field; it’s probably one of the best fields in the USL Championship that we’ll play on,” said Ofeimu. “To play in front of your friends and your family is always a special experience, so I’m excited to get the game going, our first home-opener in front of the fans and family.”
Ofeimu is a 2019 signing for Steel FC, joining up directly from the Philadelphia Union Academy on January 23, 2019 and becoming the first direct-signing for Steel FC from the Union Academy’s Residency program. Rayyan joined Steel FC after spending a year playing collegiate soccer at Duke University in 2018. He earned ACC Freshman-of-the-Year honors in his one season at Duke and sees the upcoming match at Talen Energy Stadium as another step on his journey.
“Pretty much throughout Residency, I was trying every day to become a pro. Now it’s just reality, you know? Home-opener, it’s going to be a great game and I’m excited,” stated Rayyan.
This is a huge step for the duo from Michigan. Rayyan, hailing from Grand Blanc, and Ofeimu, from West Bloomfield, the pair has been in Pennsylvania for a years now and have become best friends over the years because of their Michigan roots. Both players are excited by the possibility of making their home-debuts at Talen Energy Stadium together.
Bethlehem Steel FC takes on North Carolina FC on Saturday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m. ET at Talen Energy Stadium. The match will also be broadcast on ESPN+.