With results in five of its last six contests, Bethlehem Steel FC returns home for a rivalry showdown against New York Red Bulls II on Wednesday, June 20. Kick off from Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University is scheduled for 5 p.m. and will be broadcast locally on Service Electric and on ESPN+.
Steel FC is in the midst of one of its most difficult stretches of the schedule and has risen to the occasion with results against the top two clubs in the Eastern Conference. After shutting out reigning USL Cup champions Louisville City FC, Steel FC went to Nippert Stadium and earned a 2-2 draw while down a man in front of over 23,000 fans. Philadelphia Union midfielder Derrick Jones gave Steel FC the lead in the first half with a right-footed strike for his third goal of 2018. Steel FC played the final 30 minutes down a man but was resilient after conceding two goals as they answered on a goal from Fabian Herbers.
“I thought it could have been a win if we had stayed on level terms,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “Obviously the situation was what it was and we can’t change that so I was really proud of how resilient we were in front of 23,000 people. To hold our nerve, to hit back even when we went down. We talk about being relentless all the time, we talk about bearing fearless and that is a shining example of that in my mind of applying that mentality to a game.”
Wednesday’s contest will be the seventh all-time showdown between Steel FC and Red Bulls II, with the series split in its previous six contests. The rivalry has been one of streaks with New York winning the first three matches but Steel FC currently riding its own three-game winning streak in the matchup. Both Steel FC’s offense and the defense has been strong against New York, scoring seven goals while collecting three clean sheets. Steel FC picked up its best win of the series on May 16, as Michee Ngalina, Adam Najem and Herbers netted goals in the 3-0 victory.
"Those past matches are irrelevant at this point, we only focus on the games in front of us and we’ll prepare like we’ve not played them before,” Burke said when asking about the string of results against its rival. “We take the information from those games but from a mentality, that’s a massive trap to walk in and think you know how to beat a team because there is too much talent in their group. They are a talented young group and very similar to us in how they are constructed and the way they use their USL team so we have a real tall task on Wednesday.”
Currently sitting just one point ahead of Steel FC in the standings, New York Red Bulls II enters Wednesday’s match coming off a 3-0 shutout loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and has lost three of its last five matches. Red Bulls II has been strong at home in 2018, sporting a 5-1-1 record but on the road, the club has collected just four points in seven contests. Under the direction of John Wolyniec, Red Bulls II has scored the fifth-most goals in the USL with 25 on target and Amando Moreno leading the way with six in 13 appearances.