“I don’t think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for quite awhile.”
A 4PM kick-off was planned for the Steel FC match at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium last Sunday, but as bad weather was moving in, team management decided to move up the start time to 3:30PM to try to get the match in before the bad weather set in. Certainly, fans were kept away–and some were late–but the team handled things with aplomb–anyone holding tickets to the game, used or not, will get free tickets to an upcoming game due to the time change, the weather, the delay…any reason. They’re just taking care of it, which is really nice!
As I arrived, the weather was threatening, but things were still dry. Tailgates were in effect, and the East End Army–official supporters group of the Bethlehem Steel FC–was getting ready for their march across the expansive grass to the stadium entrance.
Once inside, I picked up the new T-Shirt sponsored by Lehigh Valley Hospital, and a couple beverages and made my way to my seats. There were some sprinkles, but nothing that prevented me from using my phone to snap this shot during warm-ups:
As fans continued to filter in, I saw a fair few more Red Bulls kits than I expected. I overheard a few complimenting the stadium facility as they made their way towards the far end of the stands. Little did I know, the RB II supporters group was there!
As the match began, there were three distinct groups mounting cheers and chants. The aforementioned Red Bulls fans were quite loud from my seats, perhaps partially because they had a position above the concourse where their cheers washed over the crowd. The East End Army had the drums and some horns, but sounded quieter due to their position in The Forge section, closer to the pitch. There was a third group, though. It was “youth soccer day” and a rowdy group of probably U9 or U8 players in my section started a cheer all on their own–the simple but effective “Let’s Go Stee-el” was just as loud as the supporters and it was all on the kids. There were no adults, video boards, or hired fans throwing T-Shirts getting them to stand up and cheer. Nope, they were ready for some professional soccer all on their own! They were well-behaved, too, just unison cheering and no misbehavior or nonsense that I saw. In fact, one young man maybe 6 or 7 years old, was so upset at a play on the field–demanding a red card–that the veins were popping out of his neck. Now, there’s a fan!
Even given the threatening weather, it was an excellent atmosphere for professional soccer in the Lehigh Valley and it was fun to be a part of it.
Down on the field, the play began fast and physical. The Steel had been humbled 4-0 last time out against the New York B-team and were determined not to let that happen again. The Steel side was bereft of MLS players, playing with an entirely USL squad for a second week in a row. Certainly, they were out to prove something, there, as well.
They did look like the better team for much of the first half; however, a long pass from the back line into the box snuck by the Steel backs and caught Steel keeper Samir “Darth” Badr somewhat flat-footed. It ended up in the back of the net for an early 1-0 Red Bulls lead. The Steel side kept playing hard, and had a few chances, but nothing that connected. At times, their play was too fast–anticipating the play of a teammate but pulling the trigger too soon to make the play. At other times, things didn’t click quickly enough–holding the ball a bit too long, or taking too long to get the shot off–at least that’s how it looked from my seat 17 rows from the field. Perhaps if the Union could see fit to provide us with a little more consistent roster, the timing and cohesion on the field would benefit.
The Bulls didn’t go into a “slow down” mode, which was good, and the Steel didn’t immediately stop playing physical once they were losing. While soccer purists might not be thrilled with the quality of the beautiful game as playd by these USL teams, I personally found it fun to watch during the first half, despite the mis-firings.
At half time, as some youth players were getting some small-sided games going on the field, I experienced something completely new at a professional sporting event: Being told that leaving is a good option. With the severe weather bearing down, the organization wanted to make sure folks could get across that big field to the parking lots safely and dry-ly. It was the common sense thing to do, and again, refreshing.
I was travelling light–no family or friends in tow–so I decided to stick it out and worry about getting myself wet, later. Eventually, the heavy stuff did come down. The field was cleared, as were the stands. We were strongly advised to seek shelter under the stands and not attempt the hike to the lots over an open field with a metal stick (umbrella) during the electrical storm. I intended to leave, but I obliged–safety, common sense, and all.
The kids played in the puddles, and the Red Bulls supporters were no where to be found. The East End Army, however, was not going to let the rain or a delay in the game dampen their fun. I shot this quick video with my phone:
Eventually, the storm started to let up a bit, and although the staff still recommended I stay, I made my way out across the grassy tundra to the parking lots. The game did resume, and the 1-0 Red Bulls II advantage held as the final score.
The Steel side will be in Charlotte Friday night. You can catch the game on their YouTube feed, or gather with others at the official pub partner, Revolutions in Bethlehem. The Steel don’t return home until Sunday, July 10 versus the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 4PM.
There will be a “friendly” versus Reading United AC, in Reading, on Sunday at Don Thomas Stadium, at 7PM, as part of the 2016 Union Festival.
The Steel media department official report, and quotes:
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (June 5, 2016) – Bethlehem Steel FC fell 1-0 to New York Red Bulls II Sunday night in front of 3,569 fans. Although weather conditions caused disruptions in the game schedule, Steel FC fought until the end but was unable to defeat the NYRB II side.
New York Red Bulls II took an early lead after Brandon Allen found the back of the net in the fourth minute. Gideon Baah played a long ball to Allen who sent a powerful shot into the back of Samir Badr’s net.
Steel FC kept pushing throughout the half and outshot the New York side 2-1. Derrick Jones had a good chance on goal in the 13th minute sending the ball hard and low to the left hand corner from the top of the 18. NYRB II keeper Ryan Meara made a diving save to send the ball out of bounds for a corner.
In the second half, Steel FC came out strong and was building momentum when Mother Nature forced the game to be delayed in the 71st minute. After a one hour and 21 minute delay due to lightening, both teams returned to the pitch to battle the last 20 minutes of the match.
Steel FC pressed hard during the remainder of the game and looked to deny the New York side of three points on the road for the first time this season.
In the 79th minute, Samir Badr made a vital save to keep the goal differential at one. In the 80th minute, Fred, who replaced Cory Burke in the 78th minute to make his third appearance of the season, came painfully close to scoring when his shot took a deflection off of the Red Bull defense and hit the cross bar.
Badr came up strong in the last ten minutes to deny NYRB II’s chances on goal, but the home was unable to find an equalizer. The 1-0 final result against NYRB II concluded Steel FC’s four game unbeaten streak at home. Prior to today’s match, Steel FC had not lost at home since the home opener against FC Cincinnati on April 3.
Steel FC return to Goodman Stadium on Sunday, July 10 to face Pittsburgh River Hounds at 4 p.m. Single game and group tickets are available by visiting bethlehemsteelfc.com or by calling 844-STEELFC.
The team will now play five games on the road with the next matchup against Charlotte Independence on Friday, June 10 at 7 p.m.
Bethlehem Steel FC 0, New York Red Bulls II 1
Shots: 8-6 (Steel FC)
Corners: 5-4 (Steel FC)
Fouls: 14-20 (NYRB II)
NY — Brandon Allen (Gideon Baah) 4’
BSFC — Auston Trusty (Yellow) 6’
NY — Konrad Plewa (Yellow) 52’
NY — Alex Muyl (Yellow) 57’
BSFC — Mickey Daly (Yellow) 58’
NY — Zach Carroll (Yellow) 70’
NY — Ryan Meara (Yellow) 90+2
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC STARTING XI
Samir Badr; Ryan Richter (C), Mickey Daly, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie (Nick Bibbs 21’); Bolu Akinyode, Derrick Jones; Jamie Luchini, Gabe Gissie (Raheem Taylor-Parkes 54’), Josh Heard; Cory Burke (Fred 78’)
Substitutes not used: C.J. Dos Santos, Joe DeZart, Lamine Conte
NEW YORK RED BULLS II STARTING XI
Ryan Meara; Justin Bilyeu, Gideon Baah, Aaron Long, Konrad Plewa (Zach Carroll 60’); Dan Metzger, Sean Davis, Derrick Etienne, Jr. (Devon Williams 90’), Alex Muyl; Junior Flemmings (Noah Powder 87’), Brandon Allen
Substitutes not used: Rafael Diaz, Tim Schmoll, Cheikh M’Baye, Zoumana Simpara
Jon Freemon (Center), Tyler Wyrostek (Assistant), Jaroslaw Werel (Assistant), Mark Treilman (Fourth)
- Mark McKenzie made his first start for Steel FC becoming the third academy player to earn a starting spot for Steel FC. Auston Trusty and Matt Real from the Philadelphia Union Academy have also started for Steel FC.
- Cory Bruke made his first start for Steel FC after appearing in three games for Steel FC (5/15 vs. FC Montreal, 5/22 vs. City Islanders, 5/28 vs. Rochester Rhinos).
- Josh Heard made his first start for Steel FC while defender Nick Bibbs made his second appearance after debuting last weekend against Rochester Rhinos.
- Samir Badr made his second start for Steel FC after making his debut against Rochester Rhinos
- Bethlehem Steel FC now have a record of 3-4-4 in their inaugural 2016 season and a 2-2-2 record at home.
Thoughts on the match:
It was chopped up by the weather delay I think at the exact time where Red Bull needed for it to be chopped up. We met after the break with a good amount of energy and just hit the bar and missed where we should’ve scored, and then we had ten minutes left. I honestly think we probably should’ve won that game.
On Mark McKenzie’s first start:
I’m really happy that Mark had his first start today, that’s huge for us for development purposes, that’s first and foremost. It hurts not to get the result, but to get him his debut is an important step for the club, so I’m happy for Mark on that end. It’s disappointing that it ended early with a concussion but, it’s just unlucky for the guy; he hit the ball.
On the rotation in the team and new Steel FC faces in the squad:
I think those guys typically train with us in the USL, but I think their mentality is great and that’s a big part of it, so they’re able to meet Red Bull’s pressure and energy with the right amount of pressure and energy. They try to eliminate soccer and make it difficult and they do it better than anyone. I think our guys being prepared for that was important today. To give up a goal in the fifth minute, that blows my mind a little bit, but they didn’t give any pressure to the center back that played the ball in, and the ball bounced twice in our box before anybody got a touch to it. It wasn’t an ideal start but I thought our response was good. We need to start games stronger than what we have.
On team development:
With Matt Real starting and playing most of the game up in Rochester, we were on top of that game for most of it. I think our project is going exactly where we want it to go. It’d be nice to get a few results along the way that I think deserve, but our project is right on schedule.
On the team’s performance:
It’s difficult for anybody with any competitive blood in their body. They feel how close they are, they know how close they are. We should have won in Orlando; we should have won in Rochester. We’re performing away from home, we do have a better job at protecting our home field, but we are sticking with the script it terms of the development of yourself and I’m very happy with where we’re at as a group and I think the players are too.
On tonight’s game in comparison to the last game against NYRBII:
It was a pretty much new group from that last game so we want to show that we can put on a good performance and get a good result. Unfortunately, we came out short on the latter of those two, but I thought the team fought and did things today that they wouldn’t do in that last game.
On the rain delay:
It was unfortunate the timing and I think Red Bull was the benefactor of that break and the last ten to fifteen minutes beforehand we dominated. We were doing well before then but I thought we also brought a lot to that last twenty minutes- one went off the cross bar and we kept pestering them so it’s what we want to do, it’s what this group’s going to do.
On his first start with the team:
I just want to show that I can get out there and play any minute that I can to prove myself. I want to do it. It was a great opportunity and I’m glad I did what I did with it.
On getting revenge against NYRB II
The last score kind of speaks for itself. We didn’t need much motivation this week because Brendan said, “We lost four nil last game, we shouldn’t have to get motivated, we shouldn’t have to get up from this,” so that score speaks for itself.
On the height difference:
I think there is a transition period of getting used to it. You have your big guys, but you also need your small guys to pick up the balls that they don’t pick up. I don’t win every header in the air but I like to think that I can clean up whatever they knock down.
On the rain delay:
I was just saying earlier to one of the guys that it couldn’t have been a better time for the thunder delay on their side because we were flying; we had a goal, we felt it coming. You can’t do anything about it obviously, but it came at a tough time for us. It kind of killed our momentum.
Of course, given the weather, I had debated about going–but was glad that I did. Losing is never good, and not having a more consistent lineup is somewhat troubling. However, it was good to see the day and the adversity handled so well by the fledgling organization, and it was good to see the fan support they had on a less-than-perfect day.
While purists may find the somewhat sloppy play difficult to watch, I enjoy the competition and athleticism. I don’t find the games boring at all, despite what might seem like a troubling 1-0 final tally.
See you at the next match,
PS: Special thanks to photographer Jack Mitroka for his work here. The images remain his property and are used with his permission. Also thanks to Charlotte Muscroft and the Steel media department for media access.