Game: Bethlehem Steel FC vs. New York Red Bulls II
Date: Sunday, June 5
Time: 4:00 PM Eastern
Venue: Goodman Stadium (Bethlehem, PA)
Referees: REF: JON FREEMON, AR1: Tyler Wyrostek, AR2: Jaroslaw Werel, 4TH: Mark Treilman
Television: Service Electric TV2 (Lehigh Valley)
Ripping off the Band-Aid here, the Baby Bulls are really good. They're everything you would want out of an actual bull. Young, fast, clinical with just enough of a temper to make you think about taking too many liberties. That's partly why the NYRB affiliates shrugged off the red cape and gored the matador the last time these two clubs met.
Things change however, and this isn't the same Bethlehem Steel FC that the Baby Bulls battered the last time out. Derrick Jones and former Red Bulls Academy member Bolu Akinyode have truly figured each other out (they live together and everything, it's a pretty cool story) to the point where we think either of those guys have a good shot at seeing some Open Cup play this year for the first team. Fabian Herbers opened up the account for the Philadelphia Union proper, which Brendan Burke hopes leads to the floodgates opening up for him in the Lehigh Valley. Seku Conneh will be unavailable due to him being away on international duty with Liberia, so Fabian should get the nod up top Sunday afternoon. Gabe Gissie looks likely to pair up on the wings with Walter Restrepo to round out that attacking partnership that very fluidly moves from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1.
From there things get interesting. Bolu Akinyode is available and surely will start against an organization that he grew up in. Difficult as that may be, for Bolu it's about playing the game and getting results both as a team and for his own personal growth as a player. Derrick Jones and James Chambers will probably round out the middle part of the midfield. BJC as I will christen them are going to have a busy night, which they might not object to.
For NYRB II, Junior Flemmings and Derrick Etienne are quick and deadly. Etienne had a goal and an assist against Bethlehem last time out, so the Steel FC backline should know a bit more of what to expect out of this team the second time around. Apart from that, RB2 have just been dominant. One loss in 10 games puts them on 21 points, which is good enough for second in the East (not to mention a pretty easy road to the playoffs).
Bethlehem shouldn't be intimidated though. A gritty draw on the road against defending USL Champion Rochester Rhinos that saw Bethlehem hold a lead until the last minute will be a moral victory, and something to build on when the Baby Bulls come to play Sunday afternoon. For what it's worth, a win here would put Steel FC right back in the playoff hunt, bringing their point total to 16 - good enough for fifth place in the conference.
Will the weather be nice to us? Probably not. If you want to watch the game from the comfort of your home, click the link to the YouTube stream here. Afraid of thunderstorms being broadcast via your computer? Follow along for live tweets of the match on our twitter here. Finally, for a running play by play of my trip up to Bethlehem a la the movie Twister, follow my personal account right here.