Match: Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Wilmington Hammerheads
Date: Thursday July 14th (Noon EST start)
Venue: Goodman Stadium (Bethlehem, PA)
Referees: REF:Brandon Artis AR1: Rick Rogers AR2: Patrick Casey 4th: Kevin Lock
Time Record: 0-0-1
Bethlehem Steel FC righted some wrongs and secured a convincing 2-0 win over the Riverhounds on Sunday. After a somewhat quick turnover, they welcome the Wilmington Hammerheads to Goodman Stadium Thursday at noon.
What Wilmington will look like:
The Hammerheads are in a playoff spot right now, which is worth noting. July so far has been kind to this side with wins over lowly, lowly Toronto FC II and a pretty good Charlotte Independence side. Ashani Fairclough scored the sharks only goal the last time these two clubs met in Wilmington, with Samir Badr inadvertently dropping the ball right onto Fairclough’s foot. Even though they only had the one goal, Wilmington out shot Bethlehem 10-5 and really their success will depend largely on whether or not they can break down the Steel FC back line. They have the tools to do it, but the run of form defensively that Steel FC are in might make this a hard task for the visitors.
What Bethlehem will look like:
Back to back disappointments lead to one of the best performances of the season for Bethlehem Steel FC. Should they have had more against the Hounds? Yes, but getting goals and three points at home is the biggest takeaway. Samir Badr made a small mistake in the first Hammerheads game, and if Badr or McCarthy can be consistent then this could be a big three points. Bethlehem will look to build on the great midfield play of James Chambers, Bolu Akinyode and Derrick Jones as of late. Chambers especially has been the driving force offensively. He’s finally settled down into the American game it seems and was able to pick out multiple long balls to Leo Fernandes and Cory Burke throughout the game on Sunday. Derrick Jones found Seku Conneh on a great long ball that went from the halfway line to the Wilmington 18 yard box and Conneh’s great chip gave Steel FC the lead in North Carolina. More of the same from Sunday could mean a win on Thursday. Jones played 45 minutes last night for the Union against Crystal Palace so he may be out for this match.
What to expect:
Both teams come out firing, with Wilmington trying to press Steel FC into some mistakes early on. Bethlehem should try and get the long shots on target early (all their midfielders have cannons) just to see if the Hammerheads keeper, either Eric Ati or John Smits, can handle the ranged efforts. This should be a pretty tight game, but I’ll call it 3-2 in favor of Bethlehem Steel FC.