Evan Villella: Bethlehem took the season series last night thanks to a goal from James Chambers. Obviously this was a weird game for a few reasons, but I guess I would just start with saying that Steel have won their last three in a row and are five games unbeaten now. It’s a new experience for us to be in a playoff spot. I’m into it. Chris, how are we feeling on the City Island?
Chris Bratton: Harrisburg didn't have their best showing, but they weren't wiped off the field at least. I think it was you who pointed out that they were basically facing a MLS caliber back four, so it was going to be especially tough to break through. Compare that to the first match of the season where I'm pretty sure the Steel were starting people from the Philadelphia Union Academy at center back. Good players, sure, but nowhere near the same level of experience. It was fun to see Richie Marquez and Ken Tribbett back on City Island, though.
EV: I think everyone kind of freaked out when that lineup dropped. I got tipped off to a huge influx of Union guys but I was expecting Derrick Jones and like Charlie Davies, not exactly Keegan Rosenberry and Josh Yaro, y’know? I think that sort of skewed me a bit but correct me if I’m wrong, that was a poor showing offensively from you guys regardless of who Steel FC had.
CB: What troubled me is that some of Harrisburg's earlier offensive problems started to come back. They have this terrible habit sometimes of getting the ball down outside the box and then stalling out. Someone might have an okay opportunity for a shot, but then they work it around looking for a great opportunity and 95% of the time they wind up losing the ball anyway. That's part of why they struggled to get power behind their shots and also why we didn't get a corner until almost the end of the match.
EV: Chambers got the only goal but really any hopes of an HCI comeback (well, on paper) were dashed when Lee Nishanian got sent off by the assistant referee no less, for pulling down Seku Conneh 80 minutes or so in. It was a sort of oddly officiated game but surely that red didn’t help your cause.
CB: That red card hurts us more for our next match than it did last night. Harrisburg tends to turn it up when they go down a man, although it would have been nice to have Lee Nishanian's height during that final corner kick. But now they have to face Louisville without him, which is a big hole because he has been a real bright spot this season.
How did you feel about the amount of offside calls? It was pretty evenly split between the teams, but jeez that felt excessive.
EV: Yeah, I mean the good news is that it was pretty consistent because I’m sure one of us would be incredibly frustrated if it went one way or the other. The angle on the livestream was off center, and we know there’s been some awkward calls on baseball diamonds (at every level) in the past, but for all of that, it really chopped up that first half.
Speaking of, Pedro Ribiero didn’t look like the answer to the lack of Aaron Wheeler last night. On top of that I haven’t seen a team fail to hit so many crosses in their home park in a while. Obviously three games in seven days and a crushing losing streak will do that to you, but it was frustrating for me to watch.
CB: I agree with you. He's out of position up there. Our first backup was one of our Ghanaian guys, Ropapa Mensah, but he's been hurt too.
Yep I agree that was a factor. I believe they only completely finished prepping the field yesterday morning. I I think they usually get a practice or two in on the field before the games, but not this time. The sod they lay over the infield is always slower than the rest of the grass. Any pass that passes over that area of the field (near side on the camera) is going to be a little off. As for the poor passing on the rest of the field, I got no explanation. Tired legs, maybe? I hate to keep coming back to that, but like you said, they were unusually sloppy.
So now the Steel have finished their road trip and they get three matches at home with a ton of momentum. How bright is the future looking in Bethlehem?
EV: I don’t want to go into this lofty rant about how this could be a really fun team to watch in October. We’re five games unbeaten and play lowly, lowly Richmond at home on July 1st. From there it’s New York Red Bulls II and Pittsburgh, which are two matches that seem to be a bit more even on paper. If we can keep this momentum going and defend the Valley, I’ll get irrational.
You guys are on a 10 (?) game losing streak, have an injured Aaron Wheeler, and your team in general looks outclassed by everyone not playing in Richmond. If you're Bill Becher, how do you try and rally back from this?
CB: Yeah it's 10 games winless. I think we face too much "shoulda, woulda, coulda". We beat Orlando City B if we don't give up that late goal. We beat Charleston if we don't have one ugly defensive turnover. But then there's other games that we're convincingly shut down. I can't pretend to have a better tactical solution than Bill, who has been doing this wayyyyy longer than me. But there's a few offensive positions where I think he should try new players. I wish I could have seen when they had Danny DiPrima in at striker. Beyond that, I just think that breaking this winless streak will do wonders to improve everyone's attitudes.
In case you’re wondering. With the win, Bethlehem move to 7-6-1 on the year, good for 22 points. They play bottom feeders Richmond Kickers on July 1st but have a really cool charity match against Newtown Youth in West Chester on Tuesday the 27th. Read up on that here, but you should try to make that if at all possible.
Harrisburg can’t grab any points at home and stay on the floor of the Eastern Conference, they will have to try and right the ship with a rough fixture at home against Louisville city on Saturday the 24th.
There ya go folks, Chris and I will go our seperate ways. Well, for the recaps, neither of us are going anywhere so keep it locked for your USL coverage.