Bethlehem Steel vs. Nashville SC, 2 p.m. EST Goodman Stadium (Lehigh University)
New team, familiar faces
Nashville SC is one of the new teams in USL this year, and is the only truly new franchise in the Eastern Conference. That being said, they have plenty of guys that fans of USL or even MLS might recognize. Obviously they have former Bethlehem Steel/Philadelphia Union players Taylor Washington and Bolu Akinyode, who both have looked sharp in limited action so far this season. They also have former Harrisburg City Islanders Liam Doyle and Ropapa Mensah as well as former Riverhound/Swope Park Rangers player Lebo Moloto. Matt LaGrassa signed from Reno and London Woodberry has shown up after a solid two-year stint with the New England Revolution. All that goes to say they’re a pretty impressive group of players who (depending on when they are officially brought in) are probably auditioning for MLS at this point. It also doesn’t hurt that they have Gary Smith as their manager, who won MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids in 2010.
Both teams couldn’t find the back of the net last week. Bethlehem had some good early chances and then got clamped down on against the Rowdies in Tampa Bay’s
t hree two nil battering at Al Lang. Cory Burke had a few good looks early but it wasn’t to be as Cody Mizell had answers to everything Steel threw his way. That being said I wouldn’t read too much into a chippy away loss against a team that could be the clear runaway winners of the regular season title.
Nashville is a bit of an interesting case, however. They had a tough draw to open the season, losing 2-0 away to Louisville. While we’ve seen quality and quantity not necessarily equate to goals (hey Fresno) Nashville struggled to find either against Louisville. They had two shots on target, three shots blocked and two absolute sitters miss the mark in a game where they probably should have scored. Nashville was dealt another bad hand in Pittsburgh, with Bob Lilley’s side coming away with a 0-0 draw. What’s troubling in a way about the shot chart for Nashville is that it was literally all Moloto. Two on target, one blocked and three off target, two of which I hope were actually crosses. I don’t think Steel are formatted like the ‘Hounds at all (Bethlehem actually play attractive soccer at times) but if there’s a defensive roadmap to holding Nashville off the board, Brendan Burke definitely has seen it.
Tomorrow’s match marks the first time that Bethlehem and the Union play on the same day this season, as well as the first Union road trip. What that historically has meant is that there’s less MLS guys hanging around that need minutes. Matt Real and Anthony Fontana are most likely with the Union in Colorado, and I’d half expect to see Derrick Jones and Marcus Epps in the 18 as well. What that could mean is we see a few things happen. Given that Chris Nanco isn’t on the injury list that came in today, I’d imagine Nanco moves to the wing that Marcus has held down this season. As much as I would like to see Mike Catalano at the 10, it’ll most likely be him pairing with James Chambers. That’ll free up the attacking midfield role for The Golden State Golden Boy (someone feel free to use this) Aidan Apodaca. Aidan paired with Brandon Allen in front of him could be huge trouble for anyone really, but Nashville will have to deal with it first if I’m guessing correctly here.
Defensively we will likely see AJ Paterson pair with Aubrey again since from the first team Josh Yaro is out with a minor injury, Richie Marquez is on the shelf for the next month and Mark McKenzie is in Colorado. Naturally this is all speculation and I’m sure come Saturday this will all look really silly.
Things I did this week
Nope, this isn’t me going through my actual personal life week. I figured since I host The USL Show (plug here) and tend to do a fair amount of guest work, it might be of interest to help everyone get to know the opposition from the perspective of my colleagues in Nashville.
This week I talked to Jon from Speedway Soccer Pod in which they offer their thoughts on the Hounds game. (MP3 here)
Antony from Bleu or Nash in which I break down Steel FC en Francais. Seriously though, it’s in French. (le lien ici)
Glenn from Golden Goal Nashville whereas most of the USL media are people with day jobs pretending to be journalists, Glenn and Wes are two journalists who now have day jobs. They do great work in text format, so definitely give them a look in general but my preview with them is here.
(Full disclosure, I’m on the same podcast network as Speedway and Golden Goal.)
Thoughts on the match this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!