Bethlehem Steel FC Hosts Ottawa in Contest with Playoff Implications
One point ahead of the Eastern Conference playoff line, Steel FC returns to Goodman Stadium looking to knock off defensive-minded Ottawa Fury FC.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (August 21, 2018) – Bethlehem Steel FC will look to take another step toward its second-consecutive appearance in the USL Cup Playoffs as it hosts Ottawa Fury FC on Wednesday, August 22. 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+.
Steel FC continued its winning ways last week against Toronto FC II to earn its fourth victory in five contests. After a scoreless opening half in Rochester, New York, Steel FC pulled away with Michee Ngalina's fourth goal of the season while Aidan Apodaca added his second goal for insurance. In the win, goalkeeper Jake McGuire collected his third-straight road shutout to tie the franchise record for all-time clean sheets and push the club’s shutout streak to 372 minutes away from the Lehigh Valley.
“I thought we threatened regularly throughout the 90 minutes which we would expect to in that game,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “I’m happy that we took care of business and that Aidan [Apodaca] was able to come on and find his second goal of the season a few minutes later to put the game away. It’s always good to win away from home and it’s never easy.”
Wednesday’s midweek contest is Steel FC’s final regular season match to fall before a weekend and one with USL Cup Playoff implications. As the season turns to week 24, just one point separates fifth place and ninth place. Both Steel FC and Ottawa are stuck in close proximity and in the all-time series which is knotted up at 1-1-1. Ottawa claimed its first win of the series earlier this season, riding out a first-minute goal from Kevin Oliveira to the 1-0 win in Canada.
“The good thing as we try to look at the positives is that we are on a good run of form and have a good group of young players and have some interchangeable parts so I think we are in good shape,” Burke said. “When I look at the schedule, this is our last midweek and Saturday game and after that, we go weekend to weekend until the end of the year and that is massive. That gives us the ability to prepare and the ability to rest and recover. I really like the way it sets up now and it makes for a lot of game watching around the league which isn’t a fun thing to do when you are only one point clear but the reality is that it’s the performances over the next four to six weeks that will dictate who gets in, not where you sit today. We know there is still quite a bit of work to be done.”
Sitting in seventh place due to goal differential, Ottawa Fury FC is led by a defense that has collected 12 shutouts. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau leads the USL in shutouts and has kept opposing offenses to just 0.87 goals per contest. Offensively, Ottawa has netted just 24 goals in 25 contests with the trio of Steevan Dos Santos, Tony Taylor and Oliveira combining for half of the club’s goals.
“I expect it to be a playoff game,” Burke said on the upcoming matchup. “They are men across the board, there aren’t many young guys on their team so they are experienced and know how to play in games like this and know how to make the game difficult. We certainly won’t change our style of play because we think we can be highly effective when we are on.”