According to Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke, his primary objective is to support and develop talent for Philadelphia Union. As the USL Championship affiliate of an MLS-side, Steel FC went even younger in 2018, and the season was highlighted by the emergence of teenaged winger Michee Ngalina.
Signed by Steel FC after a strong trial in early April, the 18-year-old went on to both solidify his role at the club and put the rest of league on notice. Despite joining the team two months after the season kicked off and seeing the field for just under 1,500 minutes, Ngalina led Steel FC with seven goals. An even more impressive statistic from the Democratic Republic of the Congo? He native was that he needed only 26 shots to reach that mark. The teenager needed 125 minutes to adjust to playing against grown men, scoring his first pro goal against New York Red Bulls II with a timely curled shot.
While Ngalina might have checked in at just 150 pounds, opposing defenders struggled to contain the versatile winger who possessed not only speed but the creative touches necessary to find the back of net when his team needed it most. Ngalina’s opening goal was his first game-winner of his career but he followed it up with yet another on the road at North Carolina FC. In that match, Philadelphia Union Academy defender Ben Ofeimu turned the match on its head with the tying goal, Ngalina earned Steel FC their first road win two minutes later with a timely run to the far post.
As the season got older and postseason implications increased the intensity of each match, Ngalina continued to shine picking up the No. 17 spot in the USL Championship’s 20 Under 20. As Steel FC entered the final match of their regular season, the club needed a result to guarantee a trip to a second consecutive postseason. Facing off against veteran-laden Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ngalina provided the goal that sent Steel FC to the playoffs, placing a right-footed blast inside the right post that the keeper couldn’t stop.
Playing on the road in the opening round of the postseason against an in-state rival, Ngalina was once again tested. Pittsburgh took a first-half lead and used its defense to slow down Steel FC’s attempts at springing a counter attack. With less than 30 minutes remaining in the season, once again it was Ngalina there at the back post to save the day. After a crafty move to find space near the touchline, Santi Moar fired a cross in front of goal that Ngalina beat his defender to and cashed in.
With a year of experience against professionals now behind him, Ngalina has time this offseason to grow even more while learning any new tactical changes that Steel FC implement based on Philadelphia Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner’s plans. The offensive creativity and goal scoring has been evident from the start but now Ngalina has time to fully learn the defensive tactics needed to become a more complete player. Steel FC has already had Derrick Jones, Matt Real, Cory Burke and Olivier Mbiazo progress up the chain from USL contracts to MLS deals,, should Ngalina’s progress continue, he is in line to be next.