Thursday, October 29, 2015
Entering the process for selecting who would lead Bethlehem Steel FC in its inaugural season in the USL, Philadelphia Union Coach Jim Curtin knew who he hoped the club would hire.
Curtin got his wish, as on Thursday Brendan Burke – his former assistant and the former head coach for the Union’s PDL affiliate Reading United AC – was introduced at a press conference at PPL Park.
“Brendan was my guy all along, but at the same time you have to go through a process and you have to interview good candidates, and we interviewed a lot,” Curtin said. “Brendan rose to the top, he’s here now and I’m excited by that, and the biggest word I’ll use is trust. We trust each other, we’ve worked together for a while now and that is a big thing.”
Burke too was excited by the opportunity to return to the Union organization after leaving last January due to an illness in his family that saw him return to his hometown of Boston. After an outstanding track record of helping develop players both within the Union’s system, and with Reading in the PDL, Burke will now get the chance to lead the Steel.
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“I enjoyed my time the last time I was here, and when Jim called me about this opportunity there was zero hesitation on my part,” Burke said. “I’m looking forward to working with all the good people around the city of Philadelphia, and honestly the tradition and history behind Bethlehem Steel has me very excited. We were talking about the video they put up at the press conference the other day, and I wanted the season to start 10 minutes after we walked out of that room.”
After the introduction of U.S. National Team legend Earnie Stewart as the Union’s new Sporting Director, and the unveiling of the Steel earlier in the week, Union part-owner Richie Graham said Burke’s return to the club was another important piece of the club’s offseason moves.
“I feel this is a really, really exciting time for the Philadelphia Union, and for soccer in the U.S.,” Graham said. “This idea of being able to have true development environments at the Academy level, and [an] environment in the USL where you can test players and really see who can swim, who’s going to sink with competitive professional games, and then of course your first team environment. I think that’s the right structure. We look at other parts of the world that have similar structures, with their U-23s in Germany would be similar. I think it’s very exciting.
“We feel like we’ve got a lot of the pieces in place, and now it comes down to execution in, and bringing Earnie in, bringing Brendan in as part of that strategy to say, hey, let’s really take this thing to the next level.”
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Burke and the club’s technical staff will now get to work in assembling a roster that will both be competitive on the field, and offer a big platform for the club’s young players to prove themselves in the professional ranks.
“I think it’s important to have a veteran core, so there will be some guys in the 25- to 28-year-old age range on this team,” Burke said. “They need to be guys that lead by example, they need to be guys that have won this league. Richie touched on it, winning is part of development, and in order to do that you need a proven commodity. There are going to be players coming down from the first team, so we know we’re going to get excellent help and support and be able to support those players with the minutes you need, so there’s your veteran core between USL players that I’ll go after and first team players coming down, and that’s going to afford our kids the opportunity to learn.”
For Curtin, the new addition is another big step in pushing the Union forward and making the club one of the best in North America.“I talked with [Union Owner] Jay [Sugarman] after the Open Cup Final, and he’s a guy who didn’t sleep that night, and I didn’t sleep that night, not for a second, and he’s a competitive guy,” Curtin said. “Jay, Richie, Dave Rowan, they’re guys of action, and this is a move that shows action. I think this week shows a lot of action in the organization that we’re not satisfied with where we’ve been, but now we’re moving in the right direction.”