Over the years, Bethlehem Steel FC has seen many players come and go. Some have moved to Philadelphia Union while others have carved out careers at other USL sides. One man, however, has made the Steel his home, forever stamping his name into franchise lore with his effort, leadership, and, as anyone at Steel will tell you, the sheer force of his personality. That man, the club’s captain, is James Chambers. “Chambo” has been with Steel FC since the start, and when he played his 100th match for the club last weekend — setting the all-time Steel goal scoring record in the process — Goodman Stadium provided a fitting home for the Irishman’s exploits. The people of the Lehigh Valley have embraced the Irishman as one of their own, and Chambers has returned that love with an open heart and a commitment to helping the younger members of Steel show their best to the fans.
Steel FC Head Coach Brendan Burke has been with the club and Chambers since it joined USL, and he has seen first-hand how valuable the midfielder has been to his team’s development. “He brings a couple different forms of leadership; putting his arm around guys, but also helping them understand that the expectations of a professional player can be very demanding, very real and very difficult to process and deal with,” said Burke. “He’s been through a great, long career where he’s played probably close to 400 games at this point.”
“There’s no better teacher than the game and experience in any line of work, so he brings all that to what is a historically young group here that we’re working with at this point. It’s vital to their development to at least have one or two guys around that have been through the war, so to speak.”
Chambers has played over 8,000 minutes for the Steel in his four years with the club, notching 16 goals eight assists while patrolling the center of the park alongside Union homegrown players like Anthony Fontana and Brenden Aaronson. He buried his 16th goal in his 100th match on June 22, a home match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies that marked the Steel’s first appearance in the Lehigh Valley in 2019. The goal, a penalty kick, pushed him above Union striker Cory Burke (15) as the club’s lone all-time goal scorer.
“His energy, his own internal drive, is tangible for everyone, coaches included,” Burke said of Chambers’ leadership. “We’ve been through some really difficult spells here because we’re not really set up to win over the last four years, but we’ve found ways to do it.”
“He’s been central to that because of his own will to win, drive and understanding of how to help other guys prepare well enough to give themselves an opportunity to win. That then becomes probably the most key piece of their development in my mind and I know I’d have people that disagree with me, but winning is a vital part of a professional player’s psyche and development and he plays a big role in that.”
Bethlehem Steel FC next travels to take on Hartford Athletic at Rentschler Field on Friday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The match is set to be broadcast on ESPN+. The Boys in Blue will be without their captain while he serves a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation, but his leadership and impact will remain. Even without him on the field the Steel know one thing is for sure, there’s only one James Chambers.