Match: Bethlehem Steel FC @ FC Cincinnati
Date: Saturday, July 2nd
Venue: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Referees: Ref: Michael Lavergne AR1: Justin Freer AR2: Nathaniel Buck 4th: Aaron Mitchell
All time record: 0-1-0
Both Bethlehem Steel FC and FC Cincinnati have evolved since Cincinnati’s 2-1 victory on April 3rd in the Lehigh Valley. Cincinnati have evolved into a powerhouse, running roughshod over the Eastern Conference of the USL all while drawing attendance numbers that would make the majority of the MLS teams blush. Bethlehem Steel FC haven’t regressed any either, if anything the youth movement that Brendan Burke has instilled in the club has brought massive opportunities for a few key Steel FC squad members that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Nippert Stadium should be electric for the second meeting between these two sides, and both clubs are more than ready for it.
What FC Cincy Will Look Like:
Cincy is just crushing it this year. Under the direction of US National Team mainstay and
Captain for Life John Harkes, FC Cincinnati has been unstoppable. I can’t really even hone in on one guy on this team to look out for. Sean Okoli is dynamic, Jimmy McLaughlin (one of four ex-Union guys) figured out how to work the flanks, and Austin Berry (two of four) looks like a legitimate center back. That’s the big test when teams go up against FC Cincinnati. The combination of Sean "Ugo" Okoli, Andrew Wiedeman and Jimmy McLaughlin has proven to be a success for Harkes, aiding the orange and blue to a 6-0-4 record in their last ten games. Harrison Delbridge is the cog of the defensive machine (though with Mitch Hildebrandt in goal, that isn’t a ton of pressure) and if someone on Bethlehem Steel FC wants to start converting chances, it’s gonna have to come in spite of Delbridge, not because of him.
What Bethlehem Steel FC Will Look Like:
Alluded to it earlier, but this is going to be another young lineup for Steel FC. Coach Burke is treating this game more as an opportunity for some younger guys to get experience playing in front of a very large away crowd on a very different surface. Earlier today in his weekly press conference Burke said they were more focused on getting young guys experience in Cincy and focused on the three points in Toronto next week. Bethlehem is going to have some personnel changes, and might only be bringing a record low 16 players with them to Nippert Stadium. The bad news is that Derrick Jones is out after earning five yellow cards. Not so bad news for him personally but Auston Trusty is unavailable because of his call-up to the USMNT u20 team for their series of games in California. The good news however is that Cory Burke is finally back to full fitness and should get the start on Saturday night. Jones and Trusty being gone has opened a window for some new academy blood to at least travel with Steel FC, one of those guys being Anthony Fontana. Fontana has played for the u18’s in the second half of the Academy season and would be a decent bench option for Bethlehem Steel FC if the situation is right.
What to Expect:
Another really entertaining game between two teams that won’t exactly look the same as they did the first time they squared off. Youth has served Bethlehem well so far this road trip and I’ll say both teams get on the board, but ultimately it ends 1-2 in favor of FC Cincinnati.