By Richard Nightingale
As Meat Loaf sang in his hit song Bat out of Hell, “The sirens are screaming and the fires are howling, Way down in the valley tonight”.
On a Sunday afternoon in the Lehigh Valley we witnessed a 1 – 1 draw that saw Pittsburgh play the spoiler and deny Bethlehem Steel any hope of securing the eighth and final spot in the 2016 USL playoffs. Pittsburgh was already kicked to the curb after their midweek scoreless draw with Cincinnati. Inexplicable that Bethlehem Steel had not won in ten games, since July 14, yet still had the chance of getting a ticket to the dance. To try and secure that victory Bethlehem Steel imported a number of players from their parent club in the MLS.
Credit to Pittsburgh they came to play. Got a gift of a penalty inside ten minutes and Hertzog converted. Held on until half time as Bethlehem Steel dug deep for any kind of quality. Steffen in the Pittsburgh net stood tall, answered any and all calls. Chambers then equalized in the sixty-eighth minute, chesting the ball into the net. Game opened up as the home team went for it, knowing a draw did nothing. That lead to Pittsburgh with many counter attacks. When the final whistle blew, we had a draw. A fair result.
Pittsburgh for the most part acquitted themselves very well. Moloto and Okai in the center of the midfield held their own and Moloto had probably his best game of the season. Nearly scored the USL goal of the season with a forty yard drive that whistled past the post. Campbell rose to the challenge that Burke, the burly Bethlehem Steel target man, presented. Then Steffen in the Pittsburgh goal was outstanding, exuding confidence and showing us why he will play this game at the highest level for many years, perhaps even at full national team level. He’s that good.
If Moloto is to make the move to the next level as Vincent has, then he needs to leave Pittsburgh and play for one of the MLS “B” teams. I’m still not convinced he is good enough but in a more “professional” set up he may surprise me. I hope so.
The fumes of failure in 2016 will linger over Highmark Stadium following next Saturday’s home finale against Cincinnati. Too much mediocrity. Same old questions will be asked. Quite boring. We have to see real change or face real disaster.
2016 has been like putting deck chairs out on the Titanic. In a results business would Pittsburgh have finished any lower with Mark Steffens? What would have happened had Romeo Parkes not had that moment of insanity and gone on to play the season? Had Steffen not been acquired from Columbus on loan would the results have been worse? Cards were dealt, hand played.
Drama has never been in short supply this season and I have a feeling that we’re not done yet.
My plea to the Pittsburgh front office is to make the season finale next Saturday FREE to everyone. Fill the stadium and end on a high note, both on and off the field. In my humble opinion this would be a tremendous gesture. Season ticket holders won’t be upset. Make this a day for the Pittsburgh soccer community and throw the doors wide open!
Regardless, as fans we’ll all be back next season because we love the drama. Including me.