“I wouldn’t have marked those two off as wins, so yeah, we’re happy with that.” I know I should probably lead with some sort of phrase that I come up with, or maybe talk about a really nice team effort. That being said, Brendan Burke’s above quote reflects just about everyone’s feelings towards these games.
Bethlehem Steel FC played a decidedly flat first half, with FC Cincinnati’s Daryl Fordyce and Andrew Wiedemann causing most of the trouble in the first 45. While Jake McGuire stood strong, the semi-regular Steel FC keeper got some help from his good friends Mr. Crossbar and Mr. Goalpost. Cincinnati came close a few times, but Steel got into the half with a 0-0 scoreline.
The second half was when things started to pick up for Steel. Maybe it was the physical game, the lack of travel, or the switch from losing to winning the aerial duals, but Bethlehem found their footing in the second half. More and more crosses started coming in, the leader of the team James Chambers was back. Hugh Roberts paired incredibly well with Auston Trusty to not only be threats in the attacking third, but to break up Cincy’s attack on the other end as well.
Speaking of, Hugh Roberts got his first goal for Bethlehem Steel FC! He took Adam Najem’s cross really well, nudging it with his head to Mitch Hildebrandt’s far post to secure the win for Bethlehem. Hugh’s been a revelation at center back, providing a much needed veteran (he’s 24) presence at the back line. His ability to pair with Auston Trusty in recent weeks in somewhat of a dream pairing for me has looked just as good in practice as it did on paper. Scoring goals is probably a secondary goal for Hugh but for a team that didn’t get many off set pieces last year, his potential as a set piece threat is a huge boost. I’ll throw the highlights below this in case you want to see some of what I’m talking about.
Before I get to a few quick notes, let’s talk about Andy Craven’s red card.
Just hit play in the video above and it should start at the “build-up” to the foul. Cincy head coach Alan Koch called the red card stupid, I call it reckless, endangering and what I hope ends a streak of unwarranted and unnecessary fouls by The Blue and Orange. Cincinnati now has four red cards in just six games. I really never like coming out and calling a team dirty, but this just feels like it doesn’t it? Is it signs of a team’s ownership putting too much weight on the players and staff? Are we seeing some frustrated players (i.e. Andy Craven, who only got a few minutes off the bench before getting sent off) vent by throwing elbows and late challenges? Who knows. That being said, it’s on the fantastic fanbase and various media outlets to question why a team who has admittedly an almost unfair amount of depth can’t seem to stay composed.
-James Chambers’ ability to talk players through games and keep the younger guys focused cannot be understated. His return is a very welcome site for a ton of reasons. Look for a revved up Steel side during their road trip.
-Chris Wingate got his professional debut this weekend! The former New York City FC third round pick spent all preseason with the Pigeons before they cut him on the final day. He just about immediately got a call from the Union, took a flight from Phoenix to Philly and now he’s here. Didn’t play enough to make a huge impression, but it sounds like the Union organization sees a good bit in the guy.
-Giliano Wijnaldum has looked markedly better in the last two weeks. No, I’m not kidding. He had a few pretty solid tackles as well as a really pretty interception against Cincy.
Charleston away next week, keep it here for all of your Bethlehem Steel FC coverage!