Bethlehem Steel FC captain James Chambers and defender Matt Mahoney spoke with PSN this week about Steel FC’s great run of form through August and the road ahead as they try to continue their winning ways in September.
When the calendar flipped to August, Steel FC found themselves in a rather dour situation. Four loses in July created a difficult predicament for a club that was otherwise successful up to that point. However, things changed for the club this past month. The Brendan Burke coached squad have won six out of their last seven matches and racked up a whopping 15 points last month. Now, with just six games remaining, both James Chambers and Matt Mahoney will look to keep things moving in a positive direction as they welcome interstate rival Penn FC to Goodman Stadium Sunday afternoon.
“There’s no secret formula. There’s no key. It’s basically just all eyes on the next game. That’s all that matters. If you don’t have two eyes on the next game and you have an eye looking ahead, it can bite you in the ass to be honest with you. We’re just focused on Penn FC and that’s all we’re looking to do,” said Chambers this week when asked how he and his teammates plan to continue their winning ways.
Chambers, the 31-year old captain, possesses true leadership abilities both on the pitch and inside the locker room. His wisdom is easily recognized whenever he talks about how to approach important stretches of an otherwise long professional season. And it’s that knowledge and leadership that continually helps one of the youngest clubs in USL to keep moving forward.
But he’s not alone. Defender Matt Mahoney has also taken on a leadership role within the locker room and inside the training facility. “He kind of understands – and I’m the same – if you’re good to the game it will be good to you. And Matt Mahoney is certainly is as good a professional as I’ve ever seen,” said Chambers of his teammate.
As July ended, both Chambers and Mahoney understood how important it was to bounce back in August. “I think it was tough at the end of July. We knew we weren’t out of it but we were in a tough spot mentally. We obviously had a tough run,” said Mahoney earlier this week. “But it’s not like we were being outplayed in those games in July. We were either making mistakes or we weren’t finishing our chances or a combination of both. In August we kind of clicked,” Mahoney said.
Things most definitely did click for Steel FC in August. The month began with a pair of 3-0 road victories against Eastern Conference opponents. First at Richmond Kickers and then at Charlotte Independence four days later. There was just one slip-up though. Steel FC returned to Goodman Stadium and suffered a gut wrenching 2-1 lost to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. But the team bounced back with yet another pair of clean sheet victories against Toronto FC II and Ottawa Fury FC.
“Once we got on a good three game streak, we faced a tough Pittsburgh team and were unfortunate to not come away with a win there, but we bounced back. What’s good is that we’re scoring goals, so that’s the hard part in the game a lot of times,” said Mahoney.
Their most recent win came at Nashville SC thanks to a stoppage time goal from Union midfielder Adam Najem. Steel FC won 2-1 after conceding a late equalizing goal. “We were up most of that game. Fortunately, Nashville got a red card, but they were coming at us in the second half. And we had the injury to Matt Real, so Prosper [Chiluya] came in cold to a tough game. It was very tough to get through it mentally, especially when they scored with 10 [minutes] to go,” said Mahoney.
The late goal provided Steel FC with their fourth straight road win to end the month of August while also sending a message to the rest of the Eastern Conference. That message reads something like: Bethlehem will be a contender come playoff time. At least that’s the goal.
“Collectively, obviously I want the team to do well, I want us to get into the playoffs. That winning mentality is not going to change,” said Chambers.
And with the wins comes notoriety for Steel FC players throughout the league. Most recently, Santi Moar and Matt Mahoney were named to USL’s Team of the Week. As a team so far in 2018, Bethlehem are tied for second in USL having 12 Team of the Week appearances from Steel FC players.
“It’s a great feeling. I think I’ve been playing well recently. Brendan [Burke] and Hogey [Stephen Hogan] and the staff have trusted me to play this new role at center back that I wasn’t so familiar with last year – haven’t played there much. It’s just an honor. I think I owe it to my teammates as much myself,” said Mahoney of his Team of the Week honor.
So now, with just six games remaining, Steel FC welcome Penn FC to Goodman Stadium Sunday. Penn FC is far removed from the playoff picture, meaning they’ll look to play the role of spoilers while trying to salvage what’s left of their 2018 campaign.
For Mahoney, it’ll be business as usual. “What’s important for us is to always come out strong and attack teams and perform well the first 15-20 minutes. Then we settle into the game and then we perform. When we come out slow, that’s what makes it tough for us. If we concede then we have to chase the game,” he said.
Chambers will look to keep the rest of the team focused moving forward. After all is said and done, these last six games will most definitely be crucial if Steel FC want to enter the playoffs as a top Eastern Conference club. “We have a group that knows when they don’t play well to be honest with you – individually and as a group collectively. We know when we don’t play well. When we don’t perform in this league, we don’t expect to get any points,” said Chambers.
Three points will be the goal against Penn FC later today. The match is set to kickoff at 3PM at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium.
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Mandatory Credit: Bethlehem Steel FC.