Nashville SC may have left with a 4-1 win over Bethlehem Steel FC on Sunday, but not without their head coach taking shots at the temporary home of the Philadelphia Union USL Championship affiliate.
“The circumstances weren’t very natural or normal having a change of venue, it affected an awful lot of things,” Smith said in an interview posted on the team’s website. “Travel, obviously the field and the quality of the surface, the size of the surface, but most importantly, some of the facilities here have been diabolical. But it makes the victory, and coming from behind, even sweeter. In adversity sometimes, you see the best of people, and we have in our group today.”
La Salle University’s McCarthy Stadium was originally built in 1936 and is home to the men’s and women’s soccer teams (football was discontinued in 2007). The turf field, which has a six-lane track around it, was last replaced in 2017.
Locker rooms are located in a building across the street about a tenth of a mile from the entrance to McCarthy. Teams were provided the option to either walk to the locker room or utilize a holding area space beneath the bleachers between warm-ups and the start of the game and halftime.
Nashville ended up setting up outside the holding area with folding chairs, which produced an image that has been making the rounds and sparking ridicule online.
That this particular post came from a Steel supporter further illustrates the frustration fans of the team have been expressing since the initial move to Talen Energy Stadium for the 2019 season was announced.
The reason for the move is Goodman Stadium, where the Steel played home games its first three seasons, does not meet league standards because it does not have proper lighting for night games. McCarthy Stadium has proper lighting and meets the 5,000 capacity minimum (it seats 7,500) other college soccer venues in Philadelphia don’t but comes with the shortcomings of a narrow pitch and the locker rooms being located in a building across the street. Beyond that the venue lacks many of the amenities that would be expected of a professional stadium.
The announced attendance for Sunday’s game was 471, which is higher than the announced attendance for the last three games played in Chester (219 for Louisville City, 436 for Ottawa Fury 436 and 222 for Atlanta United 2). This after just two days notice was given of the venue change.
The Steel is scheduled to host Saint Louis FC at the facility this Saturday at 8 p.m. and will host another game at a yet-to-be-announced venue to give the surface at Talen Energy Stadium — a controversial subject in its own right — a rest. The next scheduled Steel FC game at Talen Energy Stadium is July 10 against New York Red Bulls II.