Riding a five-match unbeaten streak that lasted all of September, Bethlehem Steel FC will look to continue its strong run of form as it begins its final regular season road trip this weekend. Steel FC will play its penultimate road match at Toronto FC II on Friday, October 6. Kickoff from the Ontario Soccer Centre is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and fans can watch the match both YouTube and on the club’s website.
With the final month of the regular season here, Steel FC finds itself in control of their own destiny with three matches remaining and only one point out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. While other matches could assist Steel FC’s bid for the club’s first playoff season, Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said the club is only focused on their own tasks.
“I view our three games as crucial to our playoff chances,” Burke said. “If we don’t get points and multiple points over those three games and win one or even two games then I think the results [of other matches] become a moot point. Obviously, I think that all of the other matches are important and matter to us but it’s in our hands and that is the most important thing going into Friday night.”
Steel FC is coming off one of its busiest stretches of the season, with the club playing three matches in a seven-day span. Over the stretch, Steel FC maintained its unbeaten streak, downing in-state rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 3-2, before battling USL-newcomer Tampa Bay Rowdies twice in a four-day span. Over the stretch, Steel FC forwards Cory Burke and Seku Conneh led the offense, combining for five goals to tie the duo atop of the club’s lead with nine goals scored this season.
“We’re very pleased to have gotten results in all three games, we were really focused on the Pittsburgh match and I think getting a point out of each of the Tampa Bay games could prove crucial in the end if we end up making it into the playoffs,” Burke said. “Really happy with the way the team performed and the number of players that were involved in those performances.”
Friday’s contest will be the third and final meeting between the two MLS-affiliate squads, with Steel FC looking for the regular-season sweep. Steel FC downed Toronto FC II at BMO Field on May 13, 1-0, after Cory Burke converted a penalty kick early in the first half. With the lead, the Steel FC defense and goalkeeper Jake McGuire protected it, with the keeper making seven saves. Three months later at Goodman Stadium, Steel FC’s offense turned in one of its best performances of the season as Burke, James Chambers and Chris Nanco found the back of the net in the 3-1 victory.
Despite the club’s record that has them at the bottom of the USL’s Eastern Conference, Toronto FC II isn’t being overlooked by the club according to Burke.
“It’s always a danger to underestimate a team that sits below you in the table, we don’t have that luxury which is great from my standpoint because our players know that we can’t afford to underestimate anyone in these last three games and need to take maximum points from every game that we can. I think Toronto does an excellent job and with their first team off this week, you could see some heavy hitters in the match.”
Toronto FC II pulled off one of the top upsets of the season in their last outing, taking down Louisville City FC, the top squad in the east, 1-0 on September 27. Forward Shaan Hundal notching the game-winning tally in the 73rd minute while keeper Anthony Cavalluzzo made four crucial saves for the upset. This season, forward Jordan Hamilton has paced the Canadian offense with five goals while Cavalluzzo has collected 79 saves in net.