Philadelphia Union II

Goliath, and little David from Bethlehem

photo courtesy USL

Goliath played his most recent soccer game with grim and almost angry determination last Saturday night in Cincinnati.

He had gone to upstate Pennsylvania to play little David in Bethlehem twice before – the first time admittedly overconfident and the second, missing a key player – and had lost. The first clean sheet was a legitimate, understandable ambush. They happen. But the second game was stolen at the end by an inspired underdog’s goal, scored at the death of a last-ditch defensive effort.

A loss was not to happen again, especially on the raucous home battlefield in Philistia, and it didn’t.

FC Cincinnati

Goliath is a major power in the United Soccer League, even after just one season of existence. It has set jaw- dropping attendance records, both season-long averages and single event turnstile counts. It has the money both to expand the pitch size of its temporary home field and to sign an MLS-like, full-sized roster of 28.

Its resources include the capacities, financial and otherwise, to be a serious candidate for one of the four remaining first-division MLS expansion slots remaining. The application requires a permanent soccer-specific stadium plan including financing, the wealth in hand to run the team for at least five years and the ability to pay an entrance fee upwards of $150 million.

The principal owner is co-CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a pillar of the greater Cincinnati civic community upon whom the University of Cincinnati – his alma mater – has just conferred an honorary doctoral degree.  The President used to work for the Bengals.  An ancillary owner may well have a consultative tie to FC Twente, currently of the Netherlands Eredivisie, who have invested in as many as five minor league United States soccer clubs.  The club is run by serious people.

Goliath clearly expects its on-field performance this season to support its expansion bid.

When heralded and successful off-season striker acquisition Djiby Fall performed an unfortunate Luis Suarez imitation against River Cup rival Louisville, he was suspended for six league games. The organization promptly traded for a comparable striker within the league, both to fill the gap and to strengthen overall performance.

It was that new striker, Danni Konig (see photo), whose account-opening brace secured Goliath’s victory over visiting David from Bethlehem last Saturday night.

The MLS application on offer in New York wanted no further blemish courtesy of an upstart player development side in the boonies. Goliath is serious about the big time.

Now, … switch perspectives, … please.

Neutral observers noted on the February night when USL finally released its game schedule – there had been inevitable delays due to the NASL-USL-USSF-Division Two kerfuffle – that Bethlehem Steel FC had been matched with FC Cincinnati as one of its four “natural” opponents, with the consequent extra third games needed to round out a thirty-two-game regular season. Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Toronto are the other three.

That Bethlehem Steel FC secured six points and two clean sheets  against FC Cincinnati is a nice feather in the Lehigh Valley/Philly cap.

The season sweep did not happen, and that is too bad. Goliath was determined. But six points of a possible nine from a team at the opposite end of last season’s table is no small achievement.

As an achievement, it alone is not sufficient by any means.

As a way point on the road to more such, it is one of which to be proud.

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