Bethlehem get a deserved victory lap this afternoon (3:00 pm kickoff, you should come out) at Goodman against a poor Saint Louis side just trying to put a sour note on a sweet season ending match up. If you didn’t know, Orlando City’s loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday means Bethlehem Steel FC are a lock for the USL Playoffs. While this is a deserved recognition, and I am incredibly proud of the guys on the field that made this happen. That being said, I have been having a hard time with the whole “congratulations” bit. I don’t want to sell this team short. I don’t want guys to come up to me tomorrow and (jokingly or not) ask if I don’t think they can make a run. I do. Let’s talk about that.
Bethlehem have had a pretty solid season, going (well, until tomorrow) 12-12-7 on the season. That’s good enough for seventh place in the East and a post season date with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. With a win today, Bethlehem would jump New York Red Bull II for sixth, setting up a playoff match up against Charleston. Bethlehem would be the underdog in both of those cases, but have had more success (granted in less attempts) against Tampa Bay. Not to mention both those draws were pretty recent, helping the familiarity between the two sides.
Standing in the way of improving Bethlehem’s seeding as well as getting a pride boost of finishing above that horrible organization that plays in New Jersey is Saint Louis. Phill over at Saint Louis Soccer Report is like one of my favorite people going right now and he also wrote this editorial about what St Louis has left on the line this season. While it’s not a whole lot, obviously, it’s not nothing. They still have guys that can really hurt you and other guys who are no slouches defensively. Christian Volesky has had a pretty bad year as far as I’m concerned, part of which I’ll put on a lack of service. He’s on a Corey Hertzog level in my opinion, but like Hertz, he struggles to create by himself sometimes. In goal is Devala Gorrick. When Gorrick is on, he’s on, a great example being the bonkers save he made against Cincy that won save of the week here. Saint Louis is a capable team, however their awful road record of 2-8-5 doesn’t strike much fear into my heart. I also think Steel are going to want to carry momentum through the end of the season and into their first USL Playoff birth. That being said, I’ll go with a 3-0 Steel win here.
I don’t want to get super into the emotional end of year stuff just because I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, however, guys, you’ve very much deserved the Playoffs this year and I’m very excited to see how everything plays out.