Upwards of 250 hopefuls attended Bethlehem Steel FC open tryouts Sunday at Lehigh University with the hope of catching the eye of the coaches searching for a diamond in the rough.
“I would like to find a handful of players to invite to the winter training session with our current players,” said Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke.
Coaching staff from each level of the organization, including the Philadelphia Union, Bethlehem Steel FC, Reading United and the Philadelphia Union Academy, attended the tryouts in search of undiscovered talent.
“We are part of the bigger machine,” said Burke. “Now the academy kids have the opportunity to play in a professional environment before they are introduced to the first team.”
Some trialists arrived at the soccer fields an hour before the 8:30 a.m. check-in time Sunday, eager to set themselves apart under the watchful eyes of the coaching staff.
“One message you give the young players that are in a tryout situation is that you are not going to make the team in the first 20 seconds of a tryout,” said Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin. “It is about putting a good day together.”
The tryout began at 10 a.m. and players with previous experience ranging from high school to professional played in small-sided games on three different fields. The tryout also consisted of a finesses assessment in which Philadelphia Union performance director Garrison Draper timed a 30-yard sprint and vertical jump.
At 12 p.m., the participants and coaches separated for lunch and the coaches utilized the time to deliberate and assess the talent from the first session. At 1 p.m., the players returned for the second session, which consisted of scrimmages.
“We have players in from Japan today, from all over the place, and I think that speaks to the opportunity that is at hand for these guys,” said Burke. “It’s a professional soccer team. It is a dream for a lot of these guys.”
WFMZ Spanish Edition sports anchor Roberto Vinces took a behind the scenes look into the tryouts during the second session and played in the scrimmage with the other participants.
“I am here representing the media but in a way I am kind of torn because I am reliving my dream of becoming a professional soccer player,” said Vinces. “A lot of people were waiting for this day. There are a lot of kids in this area that want to play soccer professionally. That is their dream.”
At the end of the day, Philadelphia Union assistant coach B.J. Callaghan addressed the participants and thanked them for their time and commitment to the tryouts stating that through the tryouts, the coaches had identified talent for not only Bethlehem Steel FC, but also the U-18 academy team, U-20 PDL team and Reading United.
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