Bethlehem Steel FC Returns to USL Cup Playoffs With Showdown Against Rival Riverhounds
A third Keystone State clash awaits Steel FC in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (October 18, 2018) – After battling for a spot in the playoffs for the past month, Bethlehem Steel FC looks to make more history in 2018 as it faces the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the USL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday, October 20. Kick off from Highmark Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
2018 seen the third-year club once again rewrite its history books and earn a trip its second-consecutive postseason appearance. This season Steel FC tallied its most overall wins (14), wins at home (eight), goals (56), assists (44) all while continuing its focus on youth and lowering its average age. That youth movement has allowed six players under 20 earn at least 650 minutes of experience while scoring 13 goals and adding 10 assists.
Entering as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, Steel FC is unbeaten in its last four matches (2-0-2) while picking up three clean sheets. Steel FC is coming off a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sunday with 17-year-old Brenden Aaronson finding 18-year-old Michee Ngalina for the game-winning goal. Needing a win to clinch a playoff berth, the young Steel FC side continued to show that age was just a number to grind out another result.
“Just some gritty grinds of games that we’ve gotten through that we probably didn’t have in us a year or two ago and that’s the development of a group of young guys,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “I’m really proud of where they are at and I hope that we can give a good account of ourselves this weekend.”
Saturday night will be the third Keystone clash between Steel FC and the Riverhounds, with Pittsburgh claiming wins in both previous matches. Steel FC overcame a first-half deficit at home to knot up the match on a Chris Nanco goal in August but Neco Brett collected a brace late to claim the road result. In early September, Pittsburgh was the last team to knock off Steel FC as the Riverhounds won 4-1 at Highmark Stadium.
“We have to make sure that we limit mistakes and take care of set pieces,” Burke said. “They hurt us last time on mistakes in transition and set pieces, these are simple things that we talk about all the time but executing is a whole other ballgame. It’s a difficult task, for my money they are one of the very top teams that have gotten themselves into the playoffs so it’s a tall order.”
The third-seeded Riverhounds enter the postseason with just five regular-season losses and an impressive 9-2-7 record at home. Pittsburgh has embraced the tactics of first-year head coach Bob Lilley, leading the USL with 17 shutouts. While the defense catches everyone’s attention, Pittsburgh has been a dangerous offensive threat with the duo of Neco Brett and Kenardo Forbes. Brett led the team with 15 goals, three of which came against Steel FC, and added seven assists while Forbes had a team-high eight helpers while connecting on four goals. The duo's success has paid off in results, with the club having only lost once when either scores or has an assist.