USL - Philadelphia Union II

Bethlehem brave a tough road stretch

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Battling it out in front of a hostile crowd is never easy, but Bethlehem Steel are undefeated three games into their five-game road trip.

Bethlehem started their road trip against the Charlotte Independence on June 10 and will not have a home game until July. Steel head coach Brendan Burke was clear with what he expected of his team over the road trip when he said his goal was to win these matches, not merely draw.

“These are all mid-table teams we are playing against, and we are a mid-table team,” Burke said, “so our focus has shifted from surviving on the road to thriving on the road.”

Forward Cory Burke did exceptionally well in the first of the five games to put the Steel in the lead against Charlotte, while goalkeeper Samir Badr and the back four held on to collect three valuable points. It was Charlotte’s first defeat since opening night.

The second game, a 1-1 stalemate against the Wilmington Hammerheads, was another tough road outing. The Steel capitalized on the Hammerheads’ lack of concentration in the opening minutes to take the lead through a sublime piece of skill from Seku Conneh that resulted in the ball being lobbed over the opposing goalkeeper’s head. Badr was superb in between the sticks as the Hammerheads began to create chances after conceding. It was only a horrible and unfortunate error from Badr in the opening minute of the second half that gifted the Hammerheads a goal as Badr dropped the ball to the feet of the Wilmington attacker. Bethlehem hung on defensively to secure the draw.

This past weekend’s match against the Richmond Kickers saw a similar result on a field in poor condition, but it did not affect the home team, as they created numerous scoring chances. Only a fantastic outing from Badr and a committed back line kept the score level. Badr came up big on several occasions to deny Richmond attackers at point blank range. When Badr could not do it, his defense, led by captain and right back Ryan Richter, made goal line clearances to defend the clean sheet. The Steel created few clear cut chances, but the defense held.

The road stretch thus far shows a motivated, tough team willing to do the dirty work necessary to stay in games on the road. They may be just draws, but points on an extended road trip like this are critical.

A run like this could help catapult the Steel into playoff contention. After the series of away games finishes against Toronto FC II on Wednesday, July 6, Bethlehem will play six straight home games, with nine of their final 14 matches at home.

A playoff appearance in the team’s inaugural season would send a message to Steel fans that this team has something special about it.

2 Comments

  1. Glad to hear the team is grinding out results and thanks for the recap. It’s awesome you’re already getting involved in writing for PSP having recently graduated high school. Keep the articles coming and good luck at college.

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