Bethlehem Steel FC comes into the club’s 2019 USL Championship home-opener with three points from a tough Birmingham match. Despite his squad’s win, Steel FC Head Coach Brendan Burke knows that there is no time to rest and that North Carolina FC will present a unique challenge this weekend.
“It’s kind of back to the drawing board. You get to enjoy it for a day or so and then back to the drawing board,” said Steel FC Head Coach Brendan Burke. “Then try to prepare for a North Carolina team that showed great commitment on the defensive side of the ball last week and a real cutting edge when they got out in transition, but also when they established possession against Louisville [City FC].”
North Carolina FC comes into this season with a fearsome and experienced new coach. Dave Sarachan has a proven track record at the highest levels of the game, having served as the interim manager of the United States Men’s National Team for more than a year. Burke noted Sarachan’s impact on North Carolina, mentioning that his experience is already visible in the way North Carolina plays.
“You can see the energy level in the group and how committed they are defending,” noted Burke. “I’d say that’s number one. There’s a good tempo on the ball to them, I think he’s just added a real element of excitement to that club. He’s one of the best coaches in the country, no one would question that, and I certainly have a great respect for everything that he’s accomplished in the game at so many different levels and so many different roles. You can see that in his team, his experience shows in his team.”
Steel FC was able to walk out of Birmingham, Alabama without giving up a goal and only allowing three shots on target in the club’s first regular-season match of 2019. In their last match, North Carolina FC was able to put up four goals against 2018 USL Cup Champions Louisville City FC. Brendan Burke recognizes their attacking ability and stated that his squad needs to remain compact, organized and energetic to have another stellar defensive performance.
“I think just remaining compact. What North Carolina did so well against Louisville [City FC] was stay compact and get all their bodies behind the ball,” Burke stated when asked about his team’s defensive aim. “One, we have to make them run effectively and not be back to front so quickly. When we are back to front, we need to commit numbers to the areas where we anticipate playing in to when we’re a little more direct and really making sure we win those little individual battles or numbers-battles from a positional standpoint. Ultimately defending is about being organized and energetic. They showed that they were very good in that way last weekend. Hopefully we can be just as good as they were last weekend, this weekend.”