Bethlehem Steel FC Looks to End June on High Note Against Charlotte
Riding four-match unbeaten streak, Steel FC looks to knock off the Independence on Saturday
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (June 29, 2018) – After extending the club’s longest unbeaten streak of 2018 to four, Bethlehem Steel FC looks to conclude June with three points and an unbeaten month when it hosts Charlotte Independence on Saturday, June 30. Kick off from Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University is scheduled for 5 p.m. and will be broadcast locally on Service Electric and on ESPN+.
June has seen Steel FC face one of the most difficult slates in the United Soccer League and emerge unbeaten against teams above the Eastern Conference playoff line. Steel FC enters the match after a thrilling 2-2 comeback draw against rival New York Red Bulls II last week, with Chris Nanco leading the charge with two assists for USL Team of the Week accolades. Nanco connected with defender Matt Mahoney for his first professional goal in the 88th minute and found an unmarked James Chambers at the far post in the final seconds for the draw.
With the club looking to finish off the month unbeaten, Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke has been pleased with the results but is expecting more than draws.
“I think it’s very important, more because it’s a home game and that’s been a focus for us and making sure that at a bare minimum very difficult to beat,” Burke said during his weekly media call. “In reality, we know that we need to win more home games than we won last year if we want to continue to progress as a club so we need to start converting some of these draws into wins. This game is vitally important on Saturday.”
Saturday’s contest in the Lehigh Valley is the fifth all-time meeting between Steel FC and the Independence, with Charlotte holding a slim 2-1-1 lead after claiming all six points in 2017. Both teams are separated by just four points on the Eastern Conference table, with Charlotte in fifth and Steel FC in 10th.
Much like Steel FC, Charlotte enters the weekend unbeaten in its last four matches and has only lost once in its last nine contests. The North Carolina club is in the midst of a busy slate with Saturday’s match its third in eight days. During the stretch, Charlotte has battled Richmond and Tampa Bay to draws and has drawn all four matches of its unbeaten streak. The Independence will be without defensive starters Joel Johnson, who leads the team in minutes played, and Donnie Smith, both of which were sent off in Wednesday’s contest against Tampa Bay. Veteran Jorge Herrera anchors the club becoming the club’s all-time leader in goals while Cordell Cato leads the offense in 2018 with eight goals in 15 appearances.
“They are a very free-flowing team this year, they press and are one of the oldest teams in the league in terms of quality experience,” Burke said. “When you look at guys like Je-Vaughn Watson and Kevan George. Alex Martinez at this point is getting up there and [Jorge] Herrera is the single-most experienced player in the entire league. They still have a ton of weapons, Yan Ekra has stepped up for them and the addition of [Cordell] Cato has been important for them. He has a real speed element that can stretch your last line if you’re not very alert when plays are developing on his side. I think they are well balanced and have two, good starting teams so I don’t think their congested schedule will hurt them at all.”
2018 USL Regular Season
Date: June 30, 2018
Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. ET
Location: Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, PA.
Bethlehem Steel FC: 5-5-5
Charlotte Independence: 6-6-5