With five matches remaining in the regular season, Bethlehem Steel FC looks to take another step closer to an USL Cup playoff appearance as it heads to face off against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Friday, September 7. Kick off from Highmark Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
Steel FC enters having won six of its last eight matches and sitting in sixth place in the USL’s Eastern Conference. The club is looking to rebound after just its second setback, falling 3-1 at home to Penn FC on Sunday. Philadelphia Union midfielders Fabian Herbers and Marcus Epps combined on Steel FC’s opening goal but the club was unable to counter three unanswered strikes from the visitors.
“I was pleased with the way we opened the game against Penn,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “We talked about playing through the lines and overloading their spaces in front of their back four or back three, whatever they want to call it. We did that very effectively, we had five or six clean looks at goal and missed a couple that I’d classify as really high percentage goal-scoring opportunities and when you leave teams in games, bad things can happen and that’s exactly what happened to us.”
Despite the loss at home, Steel FC heads on the road where it has found success recently. Over the last four matches on the road, the club has claimed four victories and outscored their hosts by a 10-1 margin. The task will be a difficult on Friday, as the Riverhounds have conceded just three goals at Highmark Stadium. Despite the challenge, Burke is looking forward to the matchup.
“They have conceded three goals at home all season so it’s an uphill battle but you have to swing away,” Burke said. “Nashville had only conceded three at home and we scored twice and took an important result. That will be my mentality and I think the boys are the same way.”
Originally scheduled for Saturday but pushed ahead last month, the clash will be the eighth all-time meeting between the two Keystone state sides where Pittsburgh owns a slight 3-2-2 advantage. Steel FC is looking to bounce back from a 2-1 home setback to the Riverhounds in August, where Chris Nanco’s equalizer was overtaken by a Neco Brett brace.
Under the direction of veteran head coach Bob Lilley, Pittsburgh enters in third place in the conference table but winless in its last four matches. The Riverhounds have led in each of those four contest but conceded second-half goals to drop points with their last win coming against Steel FC back on August 12.
“They are fantastic defensively and they press,” Burke said of Pittsburgh. “They are good on the ball, much better than they get credit for. Last time we broke down their second goal, I think I called it “head tennis” at the time but competing. They are very good at winning first and second balls consistently; they are big and athletic and are very experienced. They are exactly the type of team you want your young guys to learn and grow against and we will see if we’ve learned and grown at all. We will try to approach the game the way we play, try and play through the lines but there isn’t much space between the lines against these guys and they are playing on a hard surface. It’s going to be a big challenge to get anything out of this game but we know that and have to accept that challenge.”