Date and Time: Sunday, May 6th, 2018/5pm Kickoff
Venue: Goodman Stadium (Campus of Lehigh University)
Steel Last 5: L @ TBR, L v NSH, D vs CHS, D vs CIN, L @ LOU
Kickers Last 5: L v IND, W v NCFC, D v RBII, L @ LOU, W v TFC II
In the past two years in USL it wasn’t uncommon to see a team play their “local” rivals three times in a season. Harrisburg, Cincy and Red Bull II (off the top of my head at least) were usually those teams and Steel ended up with the second home fixture in the HCI and RBII fixtures those years. Personally I thought that system really worked out for the league, smaller teams that don’t necessarily have a massive travel budget get to focus on and “get up” for some local rivalries. Add that to some good narrative and inevitable chippy play and you have a recipe for success. This isn’t happening for anyone this year as there’s just too many teams in each conference to make this feasible. All that to say, Bethlehem get a bit lucky hosting a team they took care of easily at home for a second time this season. Both sides have had a month to improve, struggle, and ultimately come into May with some promising match ups. It’ll be on them tonight to finally execute.
Hard Schedules Impacting Results
Both Steel and Richmond have had some tough schedules (see above Result/Home or Away/Team Played cheat sheet) and as a result, they sit in 14th and 11th respectively. What that poor run of form doesn’t show is that Steel have played only one non-playoff team since Richmond in Nashville and Richmond’s only non-playoff team is lowly Toronto FC II. Both coaches would probably tell me that they want results regardless of teams played and that early points are vital, but honestly, wouldn’t everyone rather get those huge games out of the way now? Cincy are a huge team with depth and class all over the place, Steel got a draw. North Carolina are getting hot and finding chemistry and they lost to Richmond at City Stadium. Steel shut out Louisville at Slugger for the whole second half and Richmond held Red Bull II to one goal. Sure, maybe you should be able to spin poor results positively, that’s a part of not panicking after one month of the season, but for both teams this isn’t as bad as it looks. We’ll see what happens over May and then reconvene.
If the club is to be believed impact player and ACL tear haver Omar Holness was ready to go against Louisville before he picked up an unrelated knock that week in training. Add that to James Chambers’ questionable status and two players that can and would fit into any USL (and most MLS but I’m biased) sides have been out for much longer then they would like to be. For all the talk about how MLS 2 or MLS 1.5 sides need to have those consistent anchors in their drastically rotating teams every week, Steel haven’t really had that. Flipping sides to Richmond, they have had a weird situation themselves. Dane Kelly (on loan from DC United) has been in a “will he won’t he play” situation, only featuring in the first half against TFC II. Is it possible that Leigh Cowlishaw is under a bit of direction from Ben Olsen and the DCU braintrust when it comes to Kelly? Probably, I really don’t enjoy speculating on another team but for a guy like Kelly to only get 45 minutes in a league he’s proven to dominate doesn’t seem logical. Kelly is also 27 and to hardly get any minutes in either league is probably incredibly frustrating. Does he play tonight? Maybe but it’s impossible to get a read on what’s happening with him.
-Richmond will be hard to break down and with the emergence of Brian Shriver as a proven goal scorer and Austin Yearwood and Yudai Imura as contant threats this is a Richmond side that has gelled considerably since we last saw them.
-Steel haven’t scored more then once in a match since the opener against Richmond. Not that I think Bethlehem need to come out and have all their games end in 4-3 wins or anything ridiculous but usually the more goals you score the better. Another multi-goal performance here would hopefully jump start the offense.. Again.
-Jake McGuire is the Union’s season long loanee to Bethlehem this year (potentially for the second year in a row) but we’ve mostly seen Union #2 keeper John McCarthy in net. Jake and Johnny are both stellar USL quality keepers that I personally think would be a fine MLS pairing. Both can play with the Steel guys and provide a calming presence to the club but I just wonder if Jake might play passes out from the back a bit cleaner.
Bethlehem get two goals and take the clean sheet, 2-0.