Match: Bethlehem Steel FC vs Toronto FC II
Date: Sunday, July 31st
Venue: Goodman Stadium, Lehigh University
Refs: REF: Jaime Herrera AR1: Ryan Dos Santos AR2: Brandon Smith 4th: John Barr
Television: Service Electric TV2 (Lehigh Valley only)
Bethlehem will look to bounce back after another disappointing result against an admittedly good and very consistent Rochester side. The 1-1 draw was the latest in a series of set backs for a team that should at least be in the eighth (and final, in USL land) playoff spot in a pretty competitive Eastern Conference. Toronto looks to take the season series after they bested Steel FC on July 6th after a great start against a very flatfooted defense.
What Toronto will look like:
Despite a bad record, this is a dangerous Junior Reds squad. Raheem Edwards and Malik Johnson are a deadly strike force, as a few of the Steel FC back line could attest to. Other than that, the Toronto FC affiliate hasn’t had much to be happy with this year. A solid Richmond side torched the Junior Reds last week by a score of 3-0, so expect to see the Ontario based club pretty fired up after such a hammering. Inconsistency in goal never helps a team at this level, and TFCII has had quite a few keepers come through this year. Alex Bono has played the most with eight games, and given the nature of the match the young Generation Adidas goalie should get the start Sunday night. He’ll look to provide some much needed solidity for the Junior Reds.
What Bethlehem will look like:
Well, Derrick Jones did a cool thing this week which means a few things. Mainly it means that the pipeline narrative has finally moved from being an abstract to being a real tangible thing, which has to be a big boost for the rest of Jones’ ex-Academy and ex-Steel FC teammates. More importantly for Brendan Burke it means that Derrick isn’t the first name on the team sheet day in and day out. Will he be available for Steel FC this weekend? Maybe - a slumping Real Salt Lake wouldn’t be a bad time to play a kid who’s put in phenomenal shifts every week at multiple levels. That being said, I think he suits up in his usual 35 instead of the new 21 come Sunday. Jones can provide service and hit goals all day, but he alone can’t carry this team into that eigth spot in the conference. Seku Conneh, Gabe Gissie, Corey Burke and Amoy Brown (or whatever combination of those we get) have to score. Close isn’t going to cut it, and in a playoffs or bust type scenario for Steel FC those missed chances are going to haunt them. Look for an aggressive Bethlehem side to try and find the net early and often.
I’ll go out on a limb and say Brendan Burke’s side will finally wake up and put Toronto to the sword early on, securing a win 3-0 at Goodman.