Match: Bethlehem Steel FC vs FC Cincinnati (again!)
Date: Saturday, May 20th
Time: 7:00 PM Eastern
Venue: Nippert Stadium (University of Cincinnati)
Refs: REF- Malik Badawi AR1- Walter Heatherly AR2- Nait Hegerty 4TH- Kevin Fikar
Steel All Time vs FCC (W-L-T): 2-2-0
What Cincy will look like: Cincinnati has needed a “Signature Win” for awhile now. After cleanly beating Saint Louis 4-0, Cincy has struggled to get momentum going this whole season and find themselves in ninth place in the standings. Troubling as that all seems, most people, myself included thought some home cooking would’ve done Cincy good. They came out against a streaky Orlando City B side and played what could be argued as their worst game, looking incredibly flat and suffering their first home loss since July last year. While Djiby Fall serves the latter half of his suspension, FC Cincinnati flipped Andy Craven to OKC Energy for Danni Konig. Konig is more of a target striker, but OKC wouldn’t give up a big player in their offense if they didn’t think he’d at least lost a step this year. The signature win hasn’t come yet for Cincy, but it won’t be far off. Jimmy McLaughlin has been resurgent on the wing and if he’s kept off the score sheet much longer, I’ll be pretty surprised.
What Bethlehem will look like: Before we get into anything else, lookit this save from Jake McGuire against Shaan Hundal.
McGuire is playing some incredible soccer in net. Last year Bethlehem didn’t have a guy like that in net. Off some solid defense and a few good saves by McGuire, Bethlehem escaped Toronto with three points. Offensively the wing play of Chris Nanco and Marcus Epps is progressing quicker than almost anyone could have imagined. Nanco could really cause a sluggish Cincy defense some trouble as teams have found plenty of success against the Blue and Orange by pressing Austin Berry and Harrison Delbridge. The big intangible will be Bethlehem’s ability to play inside of Nippert stadium, which apart from being a bit of a fortress for FC Cincinnati, is the league’s biggest stage. Averaging a total attendance of 19,000 over the last year or so, there’s nothing else like it in the league. If Steel can figure out how to play in that kind of environment, they could be looking at a win, and will probably pick up a draw.
Prediction: Bethlehem find themselves in a playoff spot but a tricky 11:00 AM fixture against conference leader Charleston await them on Thursday in the Lehigh Valley. Picking up at least a point here will be big as Charleston seem to be rolling. I’ll go Steel 2-1.