Bethlehem got outplayed, outworked, and out-coached in the Lehigh Valley Saturday night, with Charlotte running wild to the tune of a 4-0 win. Let’s give credit where credit is due: Mike Jeffries is the probable coach of the year in the USL (definitely the East) and he has Enzo Martinez and Jorge Herrera who are two of the most clinical finishers in the league.
Great, now let’s talk about how we got here. Enzo Martinez combined with Lewis Hilton who slotted home to make it one nil Jacks after ten minutes. Shortly after, some nice passing around the box for Charlotte lead to Joel Johnson finding Jorge Herrera to double the visitor’s lead. After the first half, Steel tried to find the game, pushing up with a higher press. You get one guess as to whether or not it worked. Hilton found his brace early in the second (a back-breaker for sure) and then Alex Martinez joined in for his first and the club’s fourth.
Did Bethlehem look good? Not particularly. The return of Cory Burke and Seku Conneh was notable, and Burke looked closer to getting goals for Steel then he has in a while, nearly getting a goal back right after Charlotte’s second. Anthony Fontana continues to impress and almost score, and I think Auston Trusty looked about as comfortable on the ball as I’ve seen him. Shame about Ken Tribbett being chosen to play center back as opposed to center mid or, really, at all. I don’t have anything personal against the former Drexel defensive midfielder, but much like the Union’s unwillingness to play any one of the promising kids they have besides Jack Elliott and Marcus Epps, Tribbett doesn’t help anything out. Trusty and Hugh Roberts are a proven winning tandem, and now with Aaron Jones picking up a red card, we’ll see who slots in for him next weekend against Ottawa. Both Matt Mahoney and Matt Real are injury free and available, but Keegan Rosenberry has shown up before.
Steel FC is a team with some legitimate claims to a playoff spot. That’s something they didn’t share with the team last year, and I hope everyone that was there for 2016 reads that clearly. Most teams occupying playoff spots right now (Cincy, Tampa, Rochester, Red Bull II) have had some down periods. Steel still have two games in hand on Cincinnati and need to make those count now. Staying above Ottawa, Harrisburg and even Red Bull shouldn’t be the hardest task all year. That being said I didn’t expect this team to get shelled at home so who knows?
Steel travel to Ottawa for the first time with a chance to separate the two clubs on August 5th. Until then, stay here for all your Union/BSFC/Academy coverage.