Derrick Jones of Ghana has been one of the Steel FC’s mainstays at midfield in their inaugural season in USL. (photo courtesy of USL/Bethlehem Steel FC)
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2-8-4, 10 points) at Bethlehem Steel FC (4-6-6, 18 points)
Sunday, July 10, 2016 — Kickoff – 4 p.m.
Goodman Stadium (1),
(please note — for your reading pleasure, I’ve added some ‘footy-notes’ marked by orange numbers and at the bottom of this week’s edition of BDTH)
WHAT’s AT STAKE / KEY STORYLINES
As the Riverhounds stumble upon the midway point of a disappointing season, this is the first-ever meeting between the two Pennsylvania teams from opposite sides of the state.
Bethlehem Steel will be happy to be home.
Despite opening a five game road trip with an impressive win over Charlotte on June 10, and two subsequent draws at Wilmington and Richmond, they’ve stumbled to two losses in early July vs FC Cincinnati and Toronto FC II.
The Riverhounds battled Keystone Derby rivals City Islanders to a 0-0 draw on Monday, July 4 at Highmark Stadium.
Road games haven’t been kind to the Hounds since Dave Brandt took over the team, losing to NY Red Bulls (1-0), Richmond Kickers (3-1) and Rochester Rhinos (2-1).
Time is running short for the Hounds if they want to make a push toward the 8th place playoff line — as remain in 13th place (of 14 Eastern Conference teams).
One of the things that the Hounds have going for them is that they’ve played the least amount of games in the league (14), and have, in most cases, multiple games at hand to make up ground in the standings on the teams in front of them.
Bethlehem is one of those teams.
With a win, the Hounds can make some headway to close the gap in the standings. In fact, their next three matches will be at home in July against ahead of them (Richmond, Harrisburg and Charlotte).
A couple of injuries the Riverhounds are reporting include AlexNyarko Harlley — for the second straight week (groin) and regular starter Mike Green (hip) might also be unlikely to play.
HOUNDS SIGN NEW PLAYER
The Hounds have also added a new player to the roster — defender Ryan Adeleye — who they signed to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2017 season. Adeleye, from Elizabeth, NJ, who played collegiately at Davidson and then North Carolina University, joins the Hounds after spending the past season with the Israeli football club Hapoel Jerusalem F.C. of Liga Leumit.
The club expects Adeleye (2), who will wear the number 33, to be available for this Sunday’s match at Bethlehem Steel FC and have released defender Isaiah Schafer in a corresponding roster move.
MORE ABOUT BETHLEHEM STEEL FC
The Philadelphia Union second team is named after the original Bethlehem Steel Soccer Club (3) many considered America’s first great soccer team with five U.S. Open Cup victories. It will play at Goodman Stadium in the Lehigh Valley. Former Union assistant coach Brendan Burke will coach the Bethlehem Steel.
They’ve added a pair of Jamaicans Amoy Brown and Corey Burke to the attack, bring a mix of veterans and utilized a lot of the Union’s best young players.
Burke scored in the team’s last win at Charlotte, but has struggled to find the back of the net again.
Their top scorer has been a defender, Ryan Richter (3 goals), who scored in the team’s last game, a 3-2 loss at Toronto FC II.
THEY SAID IT
“For us we are still in the process of trying to make this into something special. There’s always progress and it’s going to take a little time to get where we want to get.”
Riverhounds Head Coach David Brandt (4)
TACTICS & STRATEGIES
This is a match between two teams that have not scored a lot of goals this season.
Bethlehem Steel FC have been competitive — and played in a lot of close, low-scoring battles — and despite managing a win or tie in 10 of 16 games, they are still a minus six in goal differential.
Bethlehem has notched one more goal than the Riverhounds (15-14) — so things might just pick-up where things left off on Monday when the Hounds played to a 0-0 draw against Harrisburg.
One mistake here or there might be the difference.
The Hounds have not generated much dynamic attacking and have not been able to sustain pressure in the final third for a full-90 minutes in any game this season. In the last match against Harrisburg, they looked like they put the foot on the gas for the first 20 minutes, but couldn’t keep the ball consistently in the midfield — and sputtered to a scoreless draw.
We’ve seen a 4-3-3 formation a lot from Brandt with Corey Hertzog, Zak Boggs and (5 – insert player here) in the other forward spot.
Lebo Moloto‘s been penciled in at midfield, but he’s been drifting near the top line a lot at times — and Kevin Kerr and Danny Earls have been anchoring and stabilizing the midfield the past two games.
As for the back line, along with a solid effort by goalkeeper Mauricio Vargas, earned its first clean sheet of the 2016 campaign on Monday. After being questioned about starting a bigger central midfield tandem of Karsten Smith and Sergio Campbell, and benching veteran Willie Hunt, Brandt is confident in his decision to go bigger with his center backs.
“I have a number of options, yes,” said Brandt.
“But I like to be big at center back. I think we’ve been exposed a few times when we haven’t been.”
Nothing less than a complete effort on defense, which we saw for the first time this year on Monday, and more dynamic attack, will earn the Hounds three road points that could turn things around at the season’s halfway mark.
Breaking Down the Hounds Footy-notes
(1) – home to the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks football team. It features 16,000 seats and a natural grass field. It is located on the campus of Lehigh University, Saucon Valley, PA
(2) – Here’s more from the Hounds Press release regarding Adeleye, who may become one of the more fascinating Hounds in terms of his hair styles.
“We’re thrilled to have signed Ryan,” said head coach Dave Brandt. “He’s an experienced player and a very good central defender and holding midfielder. He’s been training with us for two weeks while we’ve ironed out some transfer window stuff in regards to his eligibility and that’s been a big advantage. He’s been able to get more than his feet wet. He’s been able to get his feet planted and should be ready to go on Sunday.”
A native of Elizabeth, New Jersey, Adeleye began his collegiate career at Davidson College, where he started 33 games over two seasons, tallying two goals and one assist during his time there. He then transferred to the University of North Carolina for the final two years of college, where he would also compete in the USL PDL for the Carolina Dynamo. Adeleye’s senior year saw the Tar Heels finish runner-up to Maryland in the NCAA Championship.
After going undrafted in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, Adeleye briefly played for PDL side Newark Ironbound Express (now Jersey Express) before moving onto the Israeli Premier League.
The 29-year-old American-Israeli defender caught on at the Israeli Premier League level after a strong showing as a member of the US men’s squad in a friendly against Hapoel Be’er Sheva at the 2009 Maccabiah Games. Adeleye went onto spend three seasons with Be’er Sheva before joining Hapoel Ashkelon for the 2013-14 season.
Following a brief stint with the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers cut short by injury in 2015, Adeleye returned to Israel to compete for Hapoel Jerusalem.
(3) The origin of the clubs’ name is the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which was once America’s second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder and was important to the economy of the area. The name was chosen following a fan poll held between September 8, 2015 and September 28, 2015; the other three options were Lehigh Valley Steel SC, Lehigh Valley Blast, and Steel FC. Don’t you love teams with all that rich history. Between 1930 — and 2015, they played as many games as Fort Pitt Regiment have this season — zero.
(4) – Thanks coach. Fourteen games in, hopefully they don’t need too much more time or the team will be “playing for next year”.
(5) – Jack Thompson got the start last week — and did a nice work-manlike job but with Moloto free-lancing around, it looked like Thompson was all over the place covering various spaces in the midfield). And, I also found it interesting that Brandt favored Thompson over Earl and Kerr in taking most of the set pieces against Harrisburg.