“For us, it’s been all about just winning this week,” said Bethlehem Steel FC center back Brandon Aubrey during a phone interview with fellow back line mate Matthew Mahoney Thursday afternoon. “We feel like it’s a must-win for us,” Aubrey declared.
For Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke, their home match Sunday at Lehigh University needs to result in a W for his squad. “We’ve only lost once at home, but we haven’t been converting and making it three points,” said Burke during his weekly conference call with the media Wednesday. I look back at Charleston and Cincinnati [matches], they have to be wins if we want to be relevant in the playoff conversation,” Burke said.
Steel FC beat Richmond Kickers easily during their home opener a few months back, but Richmond has added offensive weapons to contend with.
It’s clear both Burke and his team know how important it is to string wins together at home. Draws aren’t too friendly in your own venue.
“You have to get something out of these home games and draws don’t pile up enough to help you come the business end of the season,” said Burke.
Steel FC are currently situated at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings tied with three other clubs for worst in the East. That’s quite the opposite of Bethlehem’s original goal of being known as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference by season’s end. More wins must occur obviously.
“There is a real focus on us being intent on winning this game this week, no matter how it comes,” said Burke.
Both Mahoney and Aubrey echoed those same sentiments Thursday.
“At home, we really want to start putting together a sting of wins,” said Aubrey. “That’s been the main focus. Just focusing on ourselves and getting the result, whatever it takes,” explained Aubrey.
If Steel FC seek a win Sunday against Richmond, they’ll have to slow down Dane Kelly, known as the leading goal scorer in United Soccer League history. Definitely no easy task for any back line. Bethlehem’s tactical staff haven’t preached at length about Kelly and the importance of containing him however. Instead, coaches have continually pumped messages about focus, decisiveness, and sound judgement into players’ minds ahead of their home clash.
Both Aubrey and Mahoney were quick to admit their shortcomings during the rough loss at Louisville City SC last week. “We had a 10-minute lapse and need to eliminate those mistakes and I think if we do that, that sets us up for good results in the future anywhere we go,” said Mahoney.
One of those mistakes was a total lack of communication between Aubrey and holding midfielder Derrick Jones which allowed Louisville’s third goal. Aubrey has noted his mistake and aims to eliminate it from future performances.
“The third goal came from a lack of decisiveness between me and Jones. Neither of us spoke up and really put our name on it and got it out of our half,” admitted Aubrey. “So, if we just minimize those mental errors and focus a little bit more than I think we’ll be alright,” Aubrey said.
Burke hopes his defenders avoid the same mental lapses that occurred last week throughout the remainder of the season. He provided some harsh words regarding his back line’s performance last week. “We had a 15-minute spell where we were just sound asleep and there is no other way to put it,” said Burke frankly. “The urgency, the communication… it was just really sloppy defending from the start,” Burke said.
That sloppy defending hasn’t truly been a glaring weakness for Burke and his club too much prior to the Louisville match. Which is a bit concerning.
But they will do their best to turn things around in front of a home crowd Sunday evening. “For us, it’s just getting back to our basics,” said Mahoney when asked about the gameplan ahead of Sunday’s clash. “Really focusing on the final third and being able to punish teams,” said Mahoney.
Steel FC have struggled to continuously apply offensive pressure and to convert on the few chances they create. An early goal Sunday would be the best remedy for a back line in need of a confidence boost.
Aubrey had one final statement before our phone interview ended for Steel FC fans out there.
“I just want to reassure that the biggest thing for us is just mentality and going out there and being ruthless,” explained Aubrey. “Not giving them [Richmond] an inch and really trying to punish them,” said Aubrey.