CHESTER, Pa. (October 3, 2019) – Philadelphia Union’s Matt Real continued his growth this season, earning him the No. 10 spot on the 2019 USL Championship 20 Under 20 list. Real rose eight spots from his No. 18 place on the 2018 list and ties Derrick Jones for the highest-ever inclusion on the list by a Bethlehem Steel player. Jones appeared at No. 10 in 2016.
Real, who has appeared nearly every youth level for the United States National Team, spent one year as a contracted player for Bethlehem Steel FC in 2017 before earning a first team contract before the start of the 2018 season. Real has started in all 18 appearances for the Steel this year while providing two assists, a personal best for helpers in a single season. Every chance for playing time gives him an opportunity to fine-tune his game and improve his chances at moving forward with the first team.
“Matt has continued to grow in both leadership and maturity this year,” stated Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner. “He has stepped into a young Steel FC side multiple times and has been pushed into leadership roles as the team gets younger and younger. He is naturally gifted at attacking from defensive positions, so this year he has been focusing on and has improved his defensive capabilities.”
Real has made a team-leading 50 tackles in 2019, and his work continues to catch the eye of U.S. Soccer. He was called up for the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in Poland earlier this year and made substitute appearances against Ukraine (May 24) and Qatar (May 30). The defender will have surely wanted more playing time, but returned to the Union and Steel to continue working on his game.
“Time with the national team in general is a great accomplishment for any player as it builds confidence, but unfortunately Matt didn’t play much there,” Tanner responded when asked about national team play and the impact it has on players. “I think the Under-20 World Cup didn’t make too big of a difference in his development, but training with the Union and matches with the Steel have really helped him progress.”
The Drexel Hill native has made 59 appearances (58 starts), tallied two goals and provided three assists since the 2016 season with Steel. He has received some playing time for the Union this year, making two appearances (one start) and collecting his first MLS helper in the match against Orlando City SC (July 7). The Union homegrown has made appearances for the Steel every year since the club’s modern-era founding and continues taking his chances to make his case for extended playing time with the first team.
“There is always tough competition for playing time in the Union first team and unfortunately for Matt he is competing with Kai Wagner, who is for sure one of the best players in MLS at that position,” said Tanner. “Despite there being competition, there is always some opportunity to step in over the course of a season as he has done already and will be able to do more in the coming season. Matt is on his way by earning a lot of trust from the coaches and that is a good base for increasing his playing time in the future.”
Both Philadelphia Union and Bethlehem Steel FC are in action this weekend for a doubleheader at Talen Energy Stadium. The Union host New York City FC on Decision Day presented by AT&T at 4:00 p.m. ET, while the Steel host Charlotte Independence in their final regular-season home match of 2019 at 7:30 p.m. ET.