Match Preview: Bethlehem Steel FC travels to Kansas City to face Swope Park Rangers this Saturday


CHESTER, Pa. (April 5, 2019) – Bethlehem Steel FC will travel to take on Swope Park Rangers in the first meeting between the two clubs. The match will kickoff at 5:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 6 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The match will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Steel FC comes into this match following a 2-2 draw in the club’s final match of a three-match home-stand to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC this past Saturday. Steel FC midfielder Michee Ngalina and forward Faris got off the mark and opened their 2019 USL Championship scoring accounts in the match, with Faris scoring in the 21st minute and Ngalina notching a 36th-minute screamer. The match also saw Philadelphia Union defender Matt Real return to the starting XI for the Steel, following a break for international duty with the United States U20 Men’s National Team. Union goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel saved his second penalty-kick attempt in as many matches for Steel FC, parrying away the shot from the Riverhounds’ Kevin Kerr in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. Coronel recorded five saves in the match, bringing his total to 13 on the year.

The Steel picked up a hard-earned point against Pittsburgh and will look to carry that forward towards a tough match with Swope Park Rangers. Swope Park will host Steel FC in the second match of a three-match home-stand. The Rangers feature a formation and style of play similar to that of their MLS affiliate, Sporting Kansas City.

“They’re big [and] play wide open in a 4-3-3, similar to their First Team, they’re good passers and committed to playing out of the back and when they catch you the field is wide open,” said Steel Head Coach Brendan Burke. “So you have to decide if you want to sit and compact the field, if you want to press and try to generate turnovers, but whatever you do you’d better be very aware of the size that they build with. It’s very similar to the way that we used to play, which makes it, not easy to prepare for, but easier. Out of that 4-2-3-1 that we used to play out of, they’re just a slightly more traditional 4-3-3 I would say, that drops into a 4-5-1 when they’re defending from the middle-third down.”

Steel FC and Swope Park Rangers have not previously played each other. The 2019 USL Championship regular season will be Swope Park’s first in the League’s Eastern Conference. The Rangers currently sit on a 0-1-1 record after two matches; with a 3-1 loss at the hands of New York Red Bulls II to start the season and a 2-2 draw at home to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. Steel FC comes into the match with a 1-2-1 record through four matches. Burke’s squad will now have to transition their mindset from defending a tall, physical team in the Riverhounds to defending a quick, technical, strategic attack from Swope Park.

“That’s part of the beauty of the League,” noted Burke. “It’ll be a very good surface that we play on this weekend and a highly technical team, so that’s a tough combination. If you miss assignments, [Swope Park Rangers] will make you pay with their feet. They’re good at playing through the lines and they do an excellent job of keeping the field wide open when they’re building. We’ll have to be careful about how high we press up the field this week and maybe compact the field a little bit.”

Bethlehem Steel FC knows Swope Park likes to build out of the back and use as much of the pitch as possible to spread out their opponents. The Rangers are very technical and strategic about when they push up the field, often catching the opposing defenses out and getting behind the last line with incisive forward passing. It will take a complete team effort defensively to keep Swope Park off the board in this match.

“I think getting everyone behind the ball is important,” Burke stated when asked how to defend the Rangers when they get forward. “We did a good job of that, for the most part, after those first five or 10 minutes of the Pittsburgh [Riverhounds] game; we did a pretty good job of that throughout. I think that’s key to this system and style of play. Everyone has to be committed to being a good defender, no matter what position on the field you play.”

Bethlehem Steel FC takes on Swope Park Rangers at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday, April 6 at 5:00 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcast at ESPN+.

2019 USL Championship Regular Season
Date: April 6, 2019
Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. ET
Location: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kan.

Bethlehem Steel FC: 1-2-1
Swope Park Rangers: 0-1-1

Match Day Twitter: @BSteelFC
Game Day Hashtag: #SPRvBST
Game Notes:
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Watch: ESPN+