Philadelphia Union II

Bethlehem’s home field woes

Photo Credit: Marjorie Elzey

Bethlehem Steel have been losing at home this season. A lot.

After Sunday night’s loss to the Ottawa Fury, the Bethlehem Steel are now 1-4-2 at their new home, Talen Energy Stadium in Chester. In comparison, the Steel went 8-4-5 last year at Goodman Field in Lehigh. So what’s been so different this year compared to last year – curse of Talen Energy Stadium?

The ever-changing lineup

A constantly shifting lineup is normal for Burke and his Bethlehem squad. In 2018, it was a strength, allowing the Steel to progress further into the playoffs than ever before. This year it seems to be a problem. This year, the Steel look out of sync.

Injuries have plagued the squad this year, it’s true. For example, the Steel haven’t won a match since Issa Rayyan’s injury, losing four matches (two at home) and tying two matches (both at home). Rayyan is a dynamic playmaker, he has been responsible for a number of Bethlehem’s goals this season and he is an adaptable player who can read his teammates well. It’s obvious that he has been missed on the field these past few matches.

Shifts in the first team have created some unexpected lineup changes for the Steel as well. The Union have also had their fair share of injuries and have sent people down this season, and players such as Kacper Przybylko, Fabinho and Derrick Jones have all rehabbed or made some appearances in a Bethlehem Steel jersey. While it is of course the Steel’s job to help players from the first team recover and get additional training before jumping back into MLS action, it still throws Burke’s own lineup out of whack.

But the biggest issue seems to be that the Steel just don’t seem to have that connection with each other much anymore. There are no more amazing and beautiful plays being created, no spark, no consistency, nothing that’s been setting Bethlehem apart or even made them look like a real team trying to put on a good show for their own fans at home.

Starting off slow

It’s been an issue the entire season. In many home matches, and matches in general, Bethlehem have sat back during the first quarter of the game, allowing the opposing teams to maintain possession and control the match. Often, it leads to the Steel allowing an early goal.

The bright side is that Bethlehem often seem to shift the balance to their favor before the first half ends. But unfortunately, it’s often not enough, because if the Steel didn’t allow a goal within the first 20 minutes or so, it’s also been pretty common for them to allow a goal right before the first half ends. Another bright spot for Bethlehem is that the squad often comes out strong at the beginning of the second half. In fact, this is typically the best time to watch the Steel, as they play their best soccer at the beginning of the second half, often scoring their goals and dominating play.

Towards the end of the match, it can be hit or miss for the Steel, they’re either pressing for a late goal or they’re resigned to their fate. It often leads to a loss because Bethlehem start most matches too slow and have to play catch up.

The turf at Talen Energy Stadium

The quality of the turf at Talen Energy Stadium this season has been lacking to say the least. It’s been more of an issue during Union matches (like when other teams come and actually rip up large chunks of the turf), but still a problem for the Steel, especially in a doubleheader match. When balls take unexpected bounces and players can trip over holes or bumps due to the quality of the field, chances that really are nothing, can turn into something and change an entire match. We’ve already discussed issues and implications of Talen’s turf, so see this article as well.

Maybe it’s a bit of growing pains in a new home arena, maybe it’s the curse of Talen Energy Stadium, or maybe, the Steel are in a slump right now. Whatever is causing these home field woes, they need to figure it out because the Bethlehem Steel need to start winning at home.

One Comment

  1. Scott of Nazareth says:

    Interesting story – Thanks Sara!

    I’m guessing part of the slow starts could be related to a lack of crowd energy. Curious to know what actual in stadium attendance #’s are like versus “tickets sold/given away”.

    Fingers crossed they can figure a way to get them back up to the Lehigh Valley. Even if they have to use Lafayette’s stadium in Easton, or J Birney Crum in Allentown…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *