Evan Villella: For the game Tuesday, can you just talk about how Harrisburg has been (the team not the city) since we last met?
Chris Bratton: Absolutely. I mean, it hasn't been very good. The last thing we need is a visit from a red hot Bethlehem and then play Louisville four days later. We've had the two Open Cup matches and the two USL matches. I can't comment on the Charlotte match of course (stream never showed up at all), although it sounds like we had some good offensive chances that were stopped by a couple of brilliant saves.
Reading was a real bright spot because we got three goals after not being able to do much on offense the previous weeks. But that was against a PDL team, and it hasn't carried over completely. We then went to Ottawa and that was a 1-0 loss that should have been 2-0. The offensive spark we showed against Reading wasn't there anymore.
And of course there was the match in Philly. They showed a lot of heart and I thought they really could have gotten another goal late, but the Union was just picking them apart all night. So the City Islanders are feeling pretty low right now for sure. They really need a W to get out of this funk they're in. Their biggest advantage going into the match is that they are currently unbeaten at home this year. So perhaps coming back to City Island for a few matches is just what they need.
CB: What do you think has contributed most to this unbeaten streak? Is there one element in particular that stands out?
EV: This is a really interesting broader topic but for the sake of not talking about it for three hours, I'll talk about it specifically for Bethlehem. As no one knows by now, we've played just about a different starting XI in every game in our short history. Sometimes that gets used as a crutch, the "oh look at our 10th different roster" kinda thing.
However, when you have a few guys who are mainstays that helps. Bringing in Hugh Roberts, sliding Cory Burke over to the wing and having James Chambers in the middle again this year set it up that there's at least one guy in every level of our field that know what to do. Factor in that we've gotten a fantastic month or so from Seku Conneh and play some guys brimming with potential like Chris Nanco, Adam Najem, and Marcus Epps and we are looking really sharp.
CB: Also, how do you feel about scheduling for this season overall? We're less than half way through the season, and here we are playing for the third time.
EV: The scheduling is weird this year. For people that might not know, Bethlehem play three teams three times where as Harrisburg have four teams three times. Steel was paired with Cincinnati, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh and Harrisburg have the two other Pennsylvania teams as well as Richmond and Red Bull II. That being said, even in the context of that it’s been really odd. After Tuesday we'll have played all three games against both Harrisburg and Cincy but haven't seen the Hounds at all yet this year. I’m glad we got the Orange and Blue out of the way (even winning that series) but given the standings, those three matches in decently quick succession against Pittsburgh might be huge.
EV: Predictions for Tuesday, sir?
CB: Well we are really struggling right now. Aaron Wheeler was pulled from the Ottawa match early due to injury. He is our big offensive weapon that other teams have to account for, but health has just been a major issue for him this year. It's a big missing piece because no one else on the team has his specific set of skills. Unless the Steel get caught in a trap game, then I think they get the win. 1-0 Bethlehem. We tend to lose 1-0 a lot.
EV: Yeah, without Wheels your last time out against us, it was Pedro Ribiero who took over that role and he didn’t look horribly dangerous. Couple that in with your high press back line and it might be Steel’s first win in Harrisburg. I have us winning, 3-0.