Match: Bethlehem Steel FC @ Toronto FC II
Date: Wednesday, July 5th
Venue: Ontario Soccer Centre (Vaughn, Ontario)
All time record: 0-0-0
Bethlehem Steel FC will wrap up their largest away stand this year by visiting Ontario, Canada, for the first time in their brief history. After an awkward stretch where most of the Philadelphia Union Academy regulars were in Texas and Auston Trusty was with the United States U20s in California, this should be a return to the usual Steel FC lineup that saw Brendan Burke’s side pick up points in three consecutive away games. Burke noted that this is a game he views as very winnable, but we’ll have to wait and see how the midweek clash between to affiliate clubs pans out.
What Toronto will look like:
Jason Bent’s side hasn’t had a good season. Only having 13 points in 18 games isn’t the sign of a terribly positive season, but given that both these sides are in the same developmental boat, it’s hard to argue with a few of the Junior Reds players. Raheem Edwards is a finisher. The almost 21 year old Toronto native has five goals this year for TFCII. Toronto has another high powered offensive threat in midfielder Malik Johnson. Johnson has four goals himself this season, and has really stepped up to be the guy that the Junior Reds offense is created by. Defensively, Skylar Thomas has been consistent, if nothing else. Thomas is a big guy at 6’4 and was a pretty smart pick in the 2015 SuperDraft when Toronto snagged him at 11th. Set pieces are going to be where Thomas can have the biggest impact, consistently good for about three goals a season throughout college and in his first year with TFCII in 2015.
What Bethlehem will look like:
This is the away match where three points is the expected result. Auston Trusty is back in the 11 for Steel FC and they’ll hope he can calm things down and clear up some of the set piece frustration that unfortunately saw Bethlehem drop all the points in Cincy last week. Derrick Jones will be back in the fold for Bethlehem Steel FC and his presence should be a big lift for his side. Jones’ ability to shoot from distance might be a pivotal weapon for a struggling offense that has been given ample time in training to work on finishing. Anthony Fontana was the most threatening attacking presence for Bethlehem last week, which while a big signal to how good the 16 year old is, shouldn’t be the normal procedure. Cory Burke, Seku Conneh, and Gabe Gissie need to find the net sooner rather than later or else their club might be watching the playoffs come late September instead of participating in them.
What to Expect:
Bethlehem is in a tough spot. Toronto is going to play their strongest side when the two clubs face off tomorrow in Ontario, and with a big game against Pittsburgh on Sunday rotating the squad is a necessity. This should be another tight battle in the vacuum sealed USL Eastern Conference, with improvement on finishing chances the difference between one point and three. Prediction: Bethlehem rights the offensive ship and Steel FC grind out a 2-0 win.