It was a fun 3 year ride. The team got progressively better. Meanwhile the stability of the club here in Bethlehem got shakier and shakier. Just before year two the Union and Earnie Stewart had a press conference “celebrating” another year in Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium. The spirit was mildly positive but the message Earnie sent was clear. Attendance was important. As it turned out, It was just never enough. To make matters worse the team was playing in a football stadium that positively dwarfed the presence of the fans that were arriving. It always made for a “forced” atmosphere at best.
But Bethlehem -- we did pretty good. If you looked down the standings at all the other teams in the USL (pre usl2) at the time and we were by one of the smallest if not the smallest market to have a team. Yet we were ending up in the middle of the pack in attendance each year. Expecting some magic bonus boost in numbers based on our history was simply not fair. Especially considering the location and experience were far from ideal. Oh the irony...we had the first American soccer soccer specific venue in the USA…yet we couldn’t put another one together (or use the original) 100 years later. In hindsight the Steel FC experience at Goodman was soooooooo (imperfectly) Bethlum.
For me knowing it was year to year from the beginning made it hard to fully commit emotionally to the team. It was a sketchy relationship from the beginning. It seemed like everyone who had deep connections with the team felt that way too. 2018 was a bonus year. What made it so hard was the ending to the 3rd season was so darn good and then POOF...just like that it was gone. Let it be a cautionary tale to any supporter of any team: no stadium, no guarantees. That’s todays reality.
Good times…for real! East End Army, I-Beam Ultras, AO Bethlehem, Molly’s, Golazo House, road trips, playoff shootouts, Goodman leaps, Chambers, McCarthy, Moar, Burke, Aaronson, all the players, the coaches, the staff and of course the fans and new friends…all great stuff! The one game in 2019 was really nice too. Helped us say goodbye and give us closure. Honestly a second game would not have been a proper ending.
A new generation now sees Bethlehem Soccer on on the national map. That’s pretty darn cool. The whole experience lays a foundation for the next club…and that is important too! Is that the Allentown United FC? I plan on expanding my coverage to this team more this year and we’ll find out. I am sure I will see many of you there. Onward and upward Bethlehem!