Bethlehem Steel FC Looks For Playoff Berth Against Rowdies
Steel FC seeks to #BootBreastCancer and secure second-consecutive trip to USL Cup Playoffs in home finale
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (October 12, 2018) – Needing a win to guarantee a trip to the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs, Bethlehem Steel FC returns to the Fortress for the final time of the regular season against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Kick off from Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will broadcast live on ESPN+.
Sunday’s home finale is also the club’s #BootBreastCancer match benefitting the Cancer Support Community of the Greater Lehigh Valley. All supporters are encouraged to wear pink to the match and the first 500 fans through the gates of Goodman Stadium will receive a pink tee. The club has created unique pink warmups for the match with all proceeds going to CSCGLV, with the auction lasting until the 70th minute of action. The auction includes a team-signed warmup that features players from the Philadelphia Union and Bethlehem Steel FC as well as individually signed warmups as well. Steel FC signed warmups also include an invitation to a special postgame meal at TAPS Tavern following the match. Tickets for the home finale can be purchased here with $5 going to the CSCGLV through the special ticket package.
On the pitch, Bethlehem Steel FC enters the weekend claiming the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference but could finish as high as fifth depending on league results. Steel FC is unbeaten in its last three matches and is coming off a 1-1 road draw to Indy Eleven. Starting seven players under 20-years-old including 17-year-old Tomas Romero in goal, Steel FC’s youth created numerous chances. The youth was on display in the club’s first-half goal as 17-year-old Brenden Aaronson found 18-year-old Faris for the opening strike.
“Good performance in Indianapolis, I thought from the entire group there wasn’t really a weak link in the group and that’s impressive because there were seven guys under the age of 20 in the starting lineup,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “Really happy with the way we’ve progressed through the season and how we’ve hung on despite our average age getting younger and younger as we go and I think we are living right on that line we try to live on of development and competition aiding in development and giving these guys really meaningful games when it counts. We’re happy with where we are at, we would have liked to have gotten three points considering they only had two shots on goal at their place in a meaningful game but we’ll take the point. It improves our position slightly and we’re not going to be beholden to watching other results over the weekend, it’s about us and our performance on Sunday.”
Sunday is the fourth all-time showdown between Steel FC and the Rowdies, with Tampa Bay holding a slight 1-0-2 edge. The two sides last played all the back in March, with the Rowdies taking advantage of two goals in six minutes to claim a 2-0 victory in Florida. In 2017, the two sides battled twice in four days, ending in a pair of draws.
A lot has changed since March for the Rowdies with former player Neill Collins assuming the head coaching role in May. Despite being eliminated from playoff contention last week, Tampa Bay has numerous scoring weapons in Georgi Hristov, Junior Flemmings and Stefano Bonomo who have combined for 19 goals this season. Tampa Bay will be without goalkeeper Daniel Vega due to a one-game suspension for receiving a red card last match but is expected to turn to Cody Mizell who leads the team in saves and wins in 2018.
Despite being out of the playoff picture, Burke says Tampa Bay is as dangerous as ever as they look to take the role of spoiler.
“Guys are playing for jobs and a lot of those guys make a lot of money so I would think they are more dangerous because they will have a little more freedom going forward. We hope to exploit that if they show any lack of discipline on the defensive side. It also makes them more unpredictable, their lineup unpredictable and makes everything about them unpredictable which is from a coach’s standpoint, not ideal.”
2018 USL Regular Season
Date: October 14, 2018
Kickoff: 3 p.m.
Location: Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, PA.
Bethlehem Steel FC: 13-12-8
Tampa Bay Rowdies: 11-14-8