Bethlehem Steel FC enters their first postseason match in club history as the No. 8 seed, going up against Eastern Conference champions Louisville City FC in the first round of the playoffs. Head Coach Brendan Burke said despite the risen stakes of the match, the team will do what it has always done, which is play an energetic, fearless style of play. Playing that way will be key, as if Steel FC can play off the energy of the Louisville crowd and take them out of the game early, the team can continue their road success.
"Now it's time to sit back and what the players do what they do and try and do what's gotten us here over the past couple of weeks, which is be fearless on the road," Burke said. "You have to be fearless, energetic and not play any differently than we have this year. I think we've been good at putting teams under pressure in their own environments and getting off to a good start on the road and that's going to be important. The most important thing we can do for ourselves is match the energy in the first 15-20 minutes."
State of Mind
One of the toughest things for players is to prepare mentally for a match, especially if it's in an environment that has never been experienced before. Many Steel FC players will experience a playoff atmosphere for the first time. However, Burke said the team has been in the playoff mindset for a few weeks now fighting for playoff positioning and earning that eventual playoff birth. That mentality will make it easier for the players to adapt to the game and allows them to be ready for Friday's match.
"We've been pressure during the past few weeks to make sure we got results," Burke said. "I think we've been in this fight or flight mode, and we're up for the fight. I think we will be again."
During the course of the season, Bethlehem Steel FC has had 41 different players make an appearance. In 32 games, Steel FC has started with 31 different lineup combinations. Having that little consistency between teammates can be a difficult aspect to overcome, but in reality, it has helped the team stay fresh while also allowing the team to promote synergy between teammates, regardless who is on the pitch. Ahead of the playoff match, Steel FC has been able to train early and often with the players available for selection, meaning come Friday, Burke will have a familiar group with him vying for the win.
"The one thing we've been able to do this week is get the team together early," Burke said. "I want to thank the first team staff for allowing us to do that, to get the group together and make sure they trained as a unit and feel like a unit heading into this game. Those relationships could end up being the difference for us."