Every player at the Philadelphia Union Academy has personal goals to play at the highest level that they can. Midfielders Brenden Aaronson and Michael Pellegrino took the next step in the organization’s ladder on Saturday, registering their first start with the Bethlehem Steel FC in the United Soccer League.
Despite playing on the road at historic Tampa Bay Rowdies with Steel FC who is battling for a spot in the USL Playoffs, the 16-year-olds didn’t show their youth when matched up against a veteran laden Tampa Bay squad that included former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole. Both Aaronson and Pellegrino had important roles in helping Steel FC earn a 1-1 draw, as they helped Steel FC cap off September unbeaten and on a five-match unbeaten streak by playing the full 90.
Playing as an attacking midfielder, Aaronson helped spark the Steel FC offense. Making his third appearance of 2017, the Mount Holly, N.J., native created a pair of scoring chances. In the opening half, Aaronson teamed up with Seku Conneh and Yosef Samuel early in the first half. Collecting it near midfield, Aaronson dribble into the offensive third and teamed up with Conneh on a give-and-go before firing a through ball to Samuel.
Aaronson’s second chance played a significant role in Steel FC’s lone goal. After defender Matt Real wrestled it away from a Rowdies midfielder and passed toward James Chambers, Aaronson came back toward the play. Providing an outlet for Chambers, the pair combined teamed up before Chambers fired a through pass that Conneh ran onto and scored.
While Aaronson was responsible for helping the Steel FC offense, Pellegrino was focused on helping the club shutdown one of the Eastern Conference’s top offenses. Making his first appearance of the season, Pellegrino was successful on a pair of tackles and a clearance late in the match. The Wenonah, N.J., native had 36 touches and completed nearly 90 percent of his passes on his debut night.
The duo became the sixth and seventh members of the Philadelphia Union Academy to notch starts with Steel FC in 2017. Pellegrino’s start also doubled as his Steel FC debut, becoming just the fifth Academy player to hold that achievement.