Preview: Bethlehem Steel vs. Junior Lone Star FC

Match Details/Setting the scene: The dawn of a new era at Junior Lone Star FC will begin in about 24 hours at the YSC Soccer Stadium in Wayne, PA when the Stars begin their 2017 season with a preseason match against Bethlehem Steel FC on Wednesday, February 22nd. The composition of Neewilli Saie’s and Kara Smith’s first squad as co-head coaches hasn’t been revealed yet but expect a sprinkling of youth players coupled with experienced seniors to face the Steel. The match will kick off at 2:00 PM EST and will be shown exclusively live on the club’s Facebook page for fans around the world. This is a must-watch for all fans.

Ticket information: FREE

Team news: The squad has been boosted with the addition of the Ivorian goalkeeper Ibrahim Toure, the Ivorian defensive midfielder Ayouba Fane, and the Mauritanian striker Seydou Ba. All three players will be looking to impress the new coaching staff so as to be re-signed by the club after completing stints with various clubs in the American Soccer League. See our separate news story for the confirmed 23-man travelling squad that will be announced later today.

Story of their season: The 2017 United Soccer League (USL) campaign was something of a building process for the Steel after the Philadelphia Union’s affiliate side disappointingly finished 11th in the USL Eastern Conference with a 6-10-14 (W-D-L) record in their inaugural season.

Who’s their star man? Corey Burke, no relation to coach Brendan Burke, is their biggest name. Cory Burke played in 20 games and started 14 matches for Steel FC. Burke added a scoring presence, finishing second on the team in goals with four while adding two assists. He also finished second on the squad with 42 shots taken while placing a team-high 16 on target. The Jamaican international earned his first cap for the Reggae Boyz against Haiti, playing 74 minutes and notched his first international goal against Guyana in the final match of Jamaica’s Caribbean Cup Qualifiers. He followed up the performance with a game-winning goal against Suriname to help the club earn a berth in the 2017 Gold Cup. Burke was acquired via loan on Feb. 17, 2016, from Rivoli United FC of the Red Stripe Premier League in his native Jamaica where he scored 12 goals and was the second-leading scorer in Jamaica’s Red Stripe Premier League in 2015-16 season. In 2014-15, he scored 11 goals making a total of 23 goals in the past two seasons, the third most in the league since the start of the 2014-15 campaign.

Opposition manager: Brendan Burke was formally introduced as head coach for the Steel on Oct. 29, 2015. Burke previously spent six years with the Union before leaving the club in January 2014 for a job at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts where in his first season with the Huskies, the team went 8-1-11 (W-D-L) and made it to the CAA Tournament Semifinals where they fell 1-0 to University of Delaware. Burke served as the assistant coach for the Philadelphia Union from 2011 through 2014 and was heavily involved in all levels of the U.S. Soccer pyramid, including serving as the head coach of the Union’s PDL affiliate Reading United from 2008 through 2013, where he maintained an exceptional record of 71-19-18 (W-D-L).

Previous meetings: The Stars have met the Steel only once, a 5-1 loss to them at the YSC Soccer Stadium in a preseason match on February 26, 2016. Anthony Allison scored the lone goal for the Stars.

Did you know? Bethlehem Steel’s first-ever signee was a former youth player of ours, Derrick Jones, who even scored on us when we faced them last year. Jones was the second player of Junior Lone Star to play in the United Soccer League following the footsteps of Anthony Allison who played for the Puerto Rico Islanders in 2010. Jones also made history by becoming the first-ever former Junior Lone Star player to sign for a Major Soccer League (MLS) club after the Philadelphia Union signed him in July 2016.

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