Fans' View

Fans’ View: Up Bethlehem way

Photo: Paul Rudderow

I’m excited about our new team to the north, Bethlehem Steel FC. Any excuse to watch soccer on a sunny Sunday afternoon is fine in my book. Especially when it is less than 45 minutes from my house, does not involve the Blue Route, and the parking is free.

When Philadelphia Union announced their the new USL team would play at Lehigh University, I thought it would be a great opportunity for my younger son and I to do a little bonding. Plus, since the tickets are general admission and very reasonably priced, I figured he could bring a friend to the games.

So off we went a few weeks ago to the home opener in the middle of one of the coldest and gustiest stretches of weather we’ve had all winter. It ended up being not too cold, especially when the stands were in the sun.

Some things aren’t like Union games, but many are, things like tailgates, supporters group, Union players on the pitch, expensive beer at the concession stands, and even seeing lots of friendly faces that I recognize from the stands at Talen Energy Stadium.

For those of us with younger kids, the players are very accessible, even more so than at Union games. We had a great chat with John McCarthy, who was in goal for Bethlehem, and former Union Homegrown Player Jimmy McLaughlin, who was with FC Cincinnati, after the home opener.

This past Sunday in the game against Richmond Kickers, we were offered the opportunity to be part of the “High Five” line who gets to greet the players as the run out onto the field. And speaking of former Union players, you can find more than a few on USL teams. Austin Berry, Corben Bone, and Antoine Hoppenot were with Cincinnati along with McLaughlin. Chandler Hoffman is with Louisville City FC (May 1 at Goodman Stadium), and Aaron Wheeler is with Harrisburg City Islanders (May 22 at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster and July 21 in Bethlehem). Danny Cruz is now with Minnesota United in the USL’s Western Conference.

For me, the crowd at Goodman Stadium has been just right so far: not too small that you felt like you are at a high school match, but not too big where you were crammed up against the person next to you. More fans are always welcome.

I have yet to make the trip to see Reading United (sorry, Sean Doyle) and never made it out to Harrisburg, but I’m looking forward to trying to see a few more games from the other leagues. I have the Cosmos on my list — I feel like it’s the right thing to do historically and because Michael Lahoud is there this season, as well as Brian Holt. I’ve got friends in North Carolina, which means a trip to see the Carolina RailHawks and Brian Sylvestre.

This past Sunday, the weather was much better than the home opener. In fact it was a bit toasty in the sun, so we moved up to higher seats in the shade. I looked around and a few seats down sat Earnie Stewart. No, I didn’t wander over to say hello or to tell him how much I enjoyed watching the style of play on Saturday, but I did think about it.

Bottom line: Make the trek up north to join us for more soccer. And of course, you can always add a little sightseeing before or after the game. Lehigh Valley Ale TrailFamily Fun in Bethlehem or More stuff to do in Allentown are nice places to start for options.



  1. As usual…solid stuff, Staci.
    I hope to make the sojourn… be a nice way to spend a weekend once or twice a season. Roll up on a saturday evening, hang around Bethlehem, Steel Stacks maybe- take in a show- check out the Steel FC, the Moravians for a smile, maybe a bite at Johnny’s on Main and home by bedtime Sunday.
    Holy alliteration and consonance….I mean I like the letter S and all…

  2. John Osborn says:

    Yeah, I have Steel’s schedule printed out on my fridge. Looking forward to heading up there sometime this spring or summer.

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    I went up for the opener against Cincy, to scout the route and the venue as well as the product on the field.
    As long as your GPS is programmed accurately – mine wasn’t going up the first time but I had left a lot of margin for error – it is an easy drive on a Sunday. Staci is much closer than I, but I am closer to the Talon than she, it would seem.
    I have a ticket for the Thursday afternoon game v. city Islanders and worry some about the return trip, but may avoid the NE extension and its construction and go cross country to get home. Takes me 90 minutes for the 67 miles to Goodman, as opposed to 55 minutes for the 18 miles to the Claw (unless there’s a Phillies game which makes it worse).

    Seats aren’t as comfortable as the Talon, a bottle of water is as over-priced there as it is at the Claw, the down-time entertainment is rudimentary.

    There is no crowd to fight, Steel players not in the eighteen sit in the stands above you. Getting out of the parking lot afterwards involves no delay whatso ever, at least so far. For those who use the men’s rooms, the Union should copy Lehigh’s example for quantity, quality and cleanliness of facilities.
    The quality of the soccer is improving; the two games so far lead to the hypothesis that the quality varies inversely to the number of players coming down from the first team to get game minutes; the more who do not regularly practice with the Steel, the poorer the display of cohesion and shape. [And the Pope is Catholic, do you know?]. Again, however, my sample size is all of two games.

  4. Hate to be the nitpicking guy making corrections, but Minnesota united is in NASL, not the USL.
    Otherwise, good stuff! Check out the riverhounds when they come to town too. Or venture out to pittsburgh, their stadium is quite nice, right on one of the rivers. In the couple years I lived there I always got to at least 5 games a year. The quality of their team has been getting better and better every year, even when the record doesn’t show it. And the yinzers didn’t even drive me crazy.

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