Bethlehem Steel announced the signing of 18-year -old Cameroonian striker Faris Pemi Moumbagna Monday evening. The 6’1” Faris, who plays as a classic number nine, could play as early as Wednesday when Steel travel to face New York Red Bulls II.
During a season that has seen head coach Brendan Burke shuffling the deck to accommodate a rotating cast of talent, Steel have rarely settled on a single striker. Fabian Herbers’ recent hot streak paved the way for a five match unbeaten run. But Tonny Temple and Chris Nanco, who have started up front for the last two matches, are both more comfortable on the wing. Since Herbers MLS future is likely in a wide role as well, Steel want to strengthen their attack with the addition of a big, quick striker with room to grow.
“You can see when you walk past him he's got the frame to build out to be a super athlete,” said Burke on Monday. “He's built like a middle linebacker and he just turned 18.”
Burke compared Faris to Cory Burke in that he can handle the high intensity defensive work required of a striker in the Union system while also contributing goals and mixing it up with big defenders.
“He’s showed feet and timing and movement that maybe we hadn't seen at that age yet, from anybody else. So we’re very excited,” Burke continued. “When you pair that with the physical tools, the potential starts to be really big.”
But the Bethlehem coach warned, “He's got to get used to training at this intensity.”
Faris has played with Steel winger Michee Ngalina in Cameroon before, and Ngalina’s has turned in an eyebrow raising season in Bethlehem while impressing against Richmond Kickers and in the Union’s international friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt.
The signing of the young striker is yet another indication of how the Union and Steel have established a symbiotic relationship that allows the Union coaching staff to see how players respond to the rough and high octane games at the USL level. Cory Burke has thrived since making the leap from Steel, and both Anthony Fontana and Matt Real have accumulated important professional minutes even though the Union have leaned on veterans at the MLS level.
Although it may be a while before Faris is ready to contribute to the Union first team, playing with Steel will allow Brendan Burke to introduce him to the Union philosophy and show him the basic concepts that he’ll need to understand to make it into Talen Energy Stadium. By bringing Faris in at such a young age, the Union can gain control over his development in a way they could not prior to the growth of Steel.