Photo courtesy Bethlehem Steel FC
In his first season with Bethlehem Steel FC, center back Auston Trusty turned heads as his athleticism and aerial prowess highlighted the raw tools that made him such a highly-regarded prospect out of the Philadelphia Union’s Academy.
This year, the 19-year-old has made a serious shift forward in sharpening other facets to his game. After earning a place in the United States’ squad for 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup earlier this year, that progression has been evident in helping Steel FC move within range of a place in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs.
“It’s been great,” said Steel FC Head Coach Brendan Burke. “He’s confident now. He always had the athleticism, and now he’s putting it together with his reading of the game. He’s getting into spaces early and recognizing situations early, and when you combine that with that athleticism you can be a big-time center back. I’m really happy with how much work he’s put in, and happy for him that it’s showing up in performances now.”
A Union Homegrown signing, Trusty’s numbers bear out an increased performance for Bethlehem this season. Trusty leads the team with 47 interceptions, sits second with 28 tackles won and 85 duels won, and third with 33 aerial duels won. That has helped Steel FC lower its goals-against average as a team with seven games to go in the season, and saw Trusty be named the No. 17 player in this year’s USL 20 Under 20 countdown.
Coming back to Steel FC after first helping the United States win the CONCACAF U20 Championship for the first time, and then making a pair of appearances at the U20 World Cup this past May and June, Trusty has built on the confidence he gained from the experience.
“Having the opportunity to go and be on the field, I just kinda had the mindset to take advantage of every situation, every opportunity I get,” said Trusty. “That’s my mindset going into everything, going into every game.”
Steel FC will get another test of its playoff credentials on Friday night when it goes up against a Louisville City FC side that has recorded multiple goals in seven of its last 10 outings to move to the top of the USL Eastern Conference standings. Louisville took a 3-1 victory when the teams met at Goodman Stadium earlier this season, but Bethlehem would move into the playoff positions if it can reverse that result.
With two games in hand on seventh-place FC Cincinnati and eighth-place Orlando City B, the chance is there for Steel FC to earn its first playoff appearance after a late swoon saw the side miss out in its inaugural season. For Trusty and the rest of Burke’s young squad, facing the pressure a playoff race brings is an exciting prospect.
“Meaningful experience, there’s nothing better,” said Burke. “We can coach them and talk to them all we want, but playing in fast games against older teams with a lot on the line, there’s no replacement for that. We’re in a great position to give our young guys [chances] – and that means rookies too. Marcus [Epps], [Chris] Nanco’s been great, Santi Moar, everyone on our team is young except for one or two guys, so this experience is going to be extremely valuable for them down the road.”
“Having the opportunity to possibly go to the playoffs and perform well is a great opportunity for me and hopefully for the team,” added Trusty.
As Trusty’s progression continues individually, though, there could be plenty more to come further down the line.
“Coming in with the mindset every single day that I want to get better, and having my staff have the same mindset for me and the same goals for me overall throughout the course of the year, it’s helping me progress higher and higher,” said Trusty.