Match: Louisville City FC vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Date: Friday, October 20th, 7:30pm Kickoff
Officials: REF: Marcos DeOliveira AR1: Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein AR2: Johann Pedolzky 4TH: Aaron Hernandez
Projected XI LCFC: (3-4-3) – GK: Greg Ranjitsingh; D: Sean Totsch, Sean Reynolds, Tarek Morad; M: Kyle Smith, Speedy Williams, Paolo DelPiccolo, Oscar Jimenez; F: George Davis IV, Luke Spencer, Brian Ownby
Projected XI BSFC: Bethlehem (4-2-3-1) – GK: Jake McGuire; D: Aaron Jones, Hugh Roberts, Auston Trusty, Matt Real; DM: James Chambers, Derrick Jones; AM: Santo Moar, Adam Najem, Cory Burke; F: Seku Conneh
What to Expect:
Well, amid all these awful distractions about who is playing where at basically every level of soccer in this country (except for the USMNT, we know where they won’t be in 2018) there’s some USL playoff soccer to be played.
Louisville City are a machine. The team plays expansive, attacking football and in part due to a sure fire Coach of the Year contender in James O’Connor and partly due to the likes of Paco Craig, Brian Ownby and Greg Ranjitsingh. Louisville have put together just about the perfect storm to make some more waves in the East this playoff season. Funky stadium? Check. Great fanbase with a ton of atmosphere? Check. Solid players and a great coaching staff? Check and check. Louisville are 3-0 all time at Slugger in the playoffs and the only thing standing between them is a MLS 2 side that have been kinda streaky all year? Bring on Charlotte or Rochester! There’s no way Bethlehem have a chance here right?
Except that I don’t really buy that there’s going to be no upsets this round. I’m honestly not sure where the upsets are going to be (I’d wager the East is more prone to them then the West) but especially in a one game format, and with how tight the conference finished at the end of the season, I don’t see a ton seperating these playoff sides. That’s where I think Bethlehem can be deadly. Flashback to September when Steel were at Slugger in what ended up being a 2-2 draw that Bethlehem honestly could have nipped from Lou City. Cory Burke and Santi Moar got the goals in that game and I’d be ignorant to leave off the recent surge of offensive output from Adam Najem and constant threat of Santi Moar. I’d also like to highlight the defense. Matt Real had a signature game last weekend against Saint Louis. Just about since he won the starting job for Steel, teams seem to be targeting the former Academy kid and honestly, early on, they had success. Recently though, Real has found his stride. He’s not just been “okay” or “serviceable” - he’s been good. Between him, the dependable Auston Trusty, USL vet and playoff expert Hugh Roberts and my pick for dark horse Union starter in 2018 Aaron Jones, this is a solid backline. Oh, yeah, James Chambers too. James is in “eff it we’re in mode” and it’s hard not to hear him talk about the playoffs and think this club has a shot.
Bethlehem need to strike early and often (I’ll say 2 goals in half an hour would be immense) to have a chance here. The longer the game goes, the easier it’ll be for LouCity to force the issue and get their chances and ride everything out. With everything off the field going on, it’ll be interesting to see if any of those rumors have an effect on the on field action tomorrow night from Louisville. Although, you can’t be forced off the pitch if you don’t lose.