MATCH PREVIEW: Bethlehem Steel FC hosts North Carolina FC in home-opener


CHESTER, Pa. (March 15, 2019) – Bethlehem Steel FC will host North Carolina FC in the club’s 2019 USL Championship home-opener. The match will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 16 at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. The match will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Steel FC comes into this match on a high note, having earned a 2-0 shutout victory in the club’s season-opener at Birmingham Legion FC last weekend. Birmingham was a tough environment for the young squad, especially with Legion FC playing their inaugural match. Driven by goals from Zach Zandi and Kacper Przybylko, on loan from Philadelphia Union, and with Zandi earning USL Championship Team of the Week honors, the Steel were able to snag all three points.

Despite his squad’s success last weekend and playing their home-opener this weekend, Steel FC Head Coach Brendan Burke knows that the match against North Carolina FC will only be more difficult. “It’s kind of back to the drawing board. You get to enjoy it for a day or so and then back to the drawing board,” said Burke. “Then try to prepare for a North Carolina team that showed great commitment on the defensive side of the ball last week and a real cutting edge when they got out in transition, but also when they established possession against Louisville [City FC].”

Steel FC’s task this week only gets more difficult when factoring in North Carolina FC’s new coach, Dave Sarachan. Sarachan has an impressive record at the highest levels of the game and knows how to get the most out of his team. He most recently served as the Interim Head Coach of the United States Men’s National Team for more than a year. Head Coach Brendan Burke has already seen his impact on North Carolina.

“You can see the energy level in the group and how committed they are defending. I’d say that’s number one,” noted Burke. “There’s a good tempo on the ball to them, I think he’s just added a real element of excitement to that club. He’s one of the best coaches in the country, no one would question that, and I certainly have a great respect for everything that he’s accomplished in the game at so many different levels and so many different roles. You can see that in his team, his experience shows in his team.”

Bethlehem Steel FC and North Carolina FC did not meet each other in 2019 preseason and have only met two times previously in league play. Steel FC holds a 1-0-1 all-time record against North Carolina, holding results of a 2-1 win and 1-1 draw in the 2018 regular-season. Philadelphia Union’s Brenden Aaronson made a substitute appearance for Steel FC in the 1-1 draw last year, making this a great opportunity to check out future Union stars. Both teams are coming off season-opening wins last weekend, with the Steel spoiling Birmingham’s inaugural match 2-0 and North Carolina FC soundly handling 2018 USL Cup Champions Louisville City FC. Based on North Carolina’s performance last week, Burke’s squad will need to lock down on defense to nullify NCFC’s attack.

“I think just remaining compact. What North Carolina did so well against Louisville [City FC] was stay compact and get all their bodies behind the ball,” Burke stated when asked how to defend against North Carolina. “One, we have to make them run effectively and not be back to front so quickly. When we are back to front, we need to commit numbers to the areas where we anticipate playing in to when we’re a little more direct and really making sure we win those little individual battles or numbers-battles from a positional standpoint. Ultimately defending is about being organized and energetic. They showed that they were very good in that way last weekend. Hopefully we can be just as good as they were last weekend, this weekend.”