Match: Bethlehem Steel FC vs Charlotte Independence
Date: Saturday, July 29th, 2017
Time: 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Central, 2:00 p.m. Pacific, 9:00 p.m. UTC
Venue: Murray H Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, PA (Campus of Lehigh University)
Refs: REF: Henrik Karlsson AR1: Gjovalin Bori AR2: Joe Zawistowski 4TH: Andrew Eitel
Steel all time vs Independence (W-L-D): 1-0-1
After a tough loss against Richmond, a game that Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke took the blame for, Bethlehem looks to stay strong at home against a deadly Charlotte side. Also of note, as of right now this would be a first round playoff match up with Charlotte holding the #2 spot and Steel owning #7.
What the Independence will look like: Charlotte isn’t really out to surprise anyone, at least not tactically. I’ll argue that no one would have placed the Independence at the second seed, but with a steady hand and some other teams losing some footing in the last month or so (hi Tampa Bay), here they are. Charlotte plays some of the best soccer in the league without really committing to one specific style. Enzo Martinez and Jorge Herrera immediately jump off the page, combining for 20 goals this season, 11 for Herrera and 9 for Martinez. They also get a big boost from standout goalkeeper Cody Mizell and Kyle Renfro didn’t look bad on Wednesday either. They don’t press all the time, they don’t just sit back and try and nab a point like the old guard do - this is a well oiled machine who went on a tear recently. It’ll be interesting to see how much rotation that Jacks coach Mike Jeffries (my coach of the year if you’re wondering) decides he needs after a tough 0-0 outing against Richmond on Wednesday.
Frightening stat: Charlotte plays a good majority (36.3% if you’re curious) of their passes forward. They also have a 20% conversion rate for goals which is about one every 50 minutes. It’s a dangerous team and they will make you pay if you’re unorganized.
What Steel should look like: Midweek on his presser Brendan Burke emphasized that Richmond was a fluky kind of game (my words). Most of the rest of his presser was praising Charlotte and talking about their previous matches in 2016. Quote time!
“When we are at our best.” Charlotte comes in smoldering hot, 6-0-3 in their last nine. Bethlehem aren’t strangers to big streaks either, being undefeated in their last five at home. For Bethlehem and Coach Burke the message seems clear: play our game, settle in, and put up or shut up.
Predictions: This should be a fun if not wet game in the Lehigh Valley. Be careful out on the roads (some impending storms Friday into Saturday) but definitely try and make it out for this. Head says a 1-1 draw but heart says 2-1 Steel.