Bethlehem Steel Futbol Club
What has two thumbs and knows zip about soccer? Me.
When I got the assignment to write about the new soccer team, the Bethlehem Steel FC, I was a bit apprehensive. I did a quick mental tally of soccer facts I DID know, and they amounted to four. Total.
I know Brandi Chastain ripped her shirt off in some big game.
I’m not sure how the unsmiling Posh Spice landed David Beckham.
I know Alex Morgan is a rock star to little girls everywhere.
And I know what Cristiano Ronaldo looks like. And ladies, if you do not, look him up and thank me later.
Ta Da, that’s it. Oh, I had a lot to learn. So with the help of Justen Braddock, marketing manager for the Steel, and me, actually buckling down and watching my first soccer game in its entirety E-V-E-R, I have a little bit better understanding of the sport. Not much, but there is a glimmer of light.
Fact: This is the inaugural season for Bethlehem Steel FC., and it is one of six new teams in the United Soccer League this year. The Steel is associated with the Major League Soccer Team, the Philadelphia Union and players can move up and down between rosters as the season goes on. The team practices down the road in King of Prussia, plays their games at Lehigh University and the offices are here in the Lehigh Valley.
Game Day Observation: Wait, I thought soccer balls were black and white. When did soccer balls get so jiggy? Why is this ball fuchsia, white and all spider-webby with the stitching? When did that happen?
Fact: Do you know why Bethlehem got the team? Do you remember back when the World Cup was being shown outside at Arts Quest and 8,000 people showed up? The Powers That Be were looking at ESPN coverage of that, scratched their heads and said, “Hey! This might be a good place for us!”
Game Day Observation: The injury-to-miraculous-cure ratio is quite high. A player falls to the ground and writhes around in pain, fooling the novice spectator like myself. We become panic stricken and perplexed as to why no one is helping this poor soul who is clearly on the verge of death. BUT WAIT, it’s a miracle. He is up and running full speed. I fell for it twice. After that, I ignored it like everyone else. See, I am getting the hang of this soccer thing.
Fact: When naming the team, the Morning Call conducted a poll and 78% of responders voted to name the team Bethlehem Steel. Channeling the most winning soccer team in US history, the Bethlehem Steel Soccer Club of 1913-1930? Probably. Good memories! Good karma.
Game Day Observation: Goodman Stadium at Lehigh University is a beautiful backdrop to the soccer games. Luckily its beauty distracted me from my game clock confusion. Why is the clock going UP? Who knew that there was a sport in which the clock actually times upward?
Fact: The team carries a full roster at about 20 and is coached by Brendan Burke. Homegrown players Ryan Ritchter, captain of the Steel, is from Southampton and Derrick Jones is a product of the Philadelphia Union Academy. The team plays 30 games a season with the 15 homes games carried by Service Electric. The weather for the first game was not super. It was cold and so windy but still, over 3,500 fans attended the first game, which was a pleasant surprise to many.
Game Day Observation: Soccer fans seem to be divided into two distinct categories. There are the enthusiastic fans… the moms, dads and kids, the youth soccer teams and coaches, and the spectators who are there to be a part of history. And then there are the REALLY enthusiastic fans. Case in point… the East End Army.
Game Day Observation Continued: Who the heck are these people playing the bagpipes and snare drums, waving scarves, and chanting BSFC!!!! (psst… East End Army) They can’t possibly keep this up the whole game can they? (They did). Are they fun to watch? (They are).
Fact: Justen Braddock has been working feverishly since the end of December to introduce the idea of the new Bethlehem Steel FC to the Lehigh Valley. The end of March marked their first home game – that’s not very long when you think about it. Through media, partnerships with youth soccer leagues, sponsorship, community events and even parades, Braddock is confident the Lehigh Valley will embrace the new team.
Game Day Observation: Uh oh, some guy just got a yellow card pointed at him. He must have done something naughty.
Fact: With one minute left in the game, Erik Ayuk scored the Steel’s first goal of their first home game but the final score was 2-1, FC Cincinnati won.
Game Day Observation: Why in the heck is the game not over? The clock says 90 but they are still playing? 45 + 45 = 90. Honestly, is no one seeing the clock? The game is over. What is
Fact: After the game, player John McCarthy had this to say, “It was great. I didn’t think we’d have nearly as many fans. It was a long way to get here and to see that type of crowd, in that type of environment, it was great to play in front of. They cheered for 90 minutes. It wasn’t just the supporters section it was everybody, and I’m grateful
Game Day Observation: The Lehigh Valley is on a roll… We have the Iron Pigs, the Phantoms, Steel Hawks and now the Steel FC.
“I didn’t think we’d have nearly as many fans. It was a long way to get here and to see that type of crowd, in that type of environment, it was great to play in front of.” – John McCarthy, player