The Passing of a Wonderful Machine
Bethlehem is no more considered as being supreme over all other soccer elevens in America, a distinction enjoyed until last season, when Robins Dry Docks eliminated the Steel Workers in the two big classics and made more emphatic this season when Erie A. A. eliminated Bethlehem in the National Cup competition and to this reverse was suffered the first defeat on the home grounds on Saturday afternoon and incidentally the elimination in the American Cup competition. There is some consolation, however, in knowing that Bethlehem is still leading in the National League but with the Eries and Robins still to be met in this race, many local adherents are skeptical as to the outcome, basing their opinion on the showing made by the Steel Workers on Saturday. More than one were the remarks that the Bethlehem veterans are slipping and a suggestion made that younger blood with something of the old-time speed and stamina is necessary. To the most partial fan it was plainly evident that the visitors were outplaying the Steel Workers and in some instances it was a revelation to see Bethlehem players, noted for their speed, outplayed at their own game. The pep and confidence were lacking, while on the other hand, Robins entered the game apparently feeling superior, which was plainly evident by their dashing, fearless and aggressive style of play. It was a bitter pill to climax years of successful campaigning and it would cause little surprise if some drastic changes were forthcoming in building the team to its former standard. A word in justice to the players comprising the Bethlehem clan might not be amiss at this time. While to many it may seem that the Steel Workers are going backwards in their form, it must not be overlooked that the opposition this year has been stronger than ever before, stronger because players who have learned the game in America have developed to an equal of those who migrated from Europe and practically introduced the game in this country. There was a time when the players form the old school were by far the peers of the home product, but that time is rapidly passing and with the sport being waged more extensively each year, more brilliant luminaries promise to make their debut. This aspect will not alone eliminate the one or two team favorites but will have a tendency to place competition on a more equal basis, inspire greater interest with a larger field of competition and as a result will prove a bigger attraction to the patrons. The American fan cares little for a battle in which the odds are decidedly overwhelming, as had been the case in soccer a couple of years back, but when competition once becomes developed on a more equal basis and in all contest there is an element of doubt as to the final outcome, it should add hosts to its supporters. While to Bethlehem it may be a hard blow to be dropped two years in succession in the most important soccer classics, it undoubtedly will be for the good of the game and an inspiration to the weaker teams in realizing that he day of the one big team is past.
Robins a Well Balanced Team
Many noted soccer prophets were among the gathering on the Bethlehem Steel field on Saturday afternoon. Among these was Levi Wilcox, soccer critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who views the defeat of the Bethlehem team thus:
"Robins Dry Dock has one of the best balanced soccer teams in the history of the sport in this country. The American Cup holders not only look like repeating on their form against Bethlehem last Saturday, but they will take some beating in the National Cup competition. The team as a whole, while not possessing any individual stars, works together with such uniformity that it appears as if every player in the lineup realized what his conferee intended doing with the ball and in consequence there is nearly always a player ready for that ball when it leaves the boot of one of the Robins' players.
"There was no disputing the superiority of the Dry Dockers over Bethlehem. And when the once mighty powerful machine crumbled before the dashing play of the Robins many of the veterans who were present at Saturday's match realized that not only had Bethlehem's star started to ascend, but that a team worthy of the game had risen from the horizon to take the place of the Upstaters, who, prior to last years, were almost considered invincible.
"Even without Ratican to keep the forward line keyed up, Robins Dry Dock presented a wonderful front, their attacking force working like Trojans and showing team work even on the heavy ground that is necessary to a winning team. Their combination could not have been improved upon with a Ratican at center forward. The whole quintet just worked together as if one unit, and right from the start they seemed to realize that victory was theirs.
"Robins also have a mighty fine back division. From the halves to the fullbacks there is not a weakling from which it might be gathered that it is a team above the average. Page, in particular, at right fullback, is one of the best backs we have witnessed play this season. He might not be as clever with the "gray matter" as Ferguson, the Bethlehem star, but he is a whale of a lot faster. That was never better demonstrated when on more than one occasion Page outfooted Fleming when that player was after the ball, a feat never before witnessed by any fullback against Fleming's noted speed.
"The showing of the Bethlehem team on Saturday was disappointing. Not that this is an alibi for Robins' victory, but the Upstaters were so far outclassed that to many who imaged that Bethlehem was unbeatable, it was a revelation. With the exception of Duncan, Ferguson, Campbell and Brittan, there was not a player in the Bethlehem lineup worthy of the name of two years ago. The forwards did not show the same brilliant team work of two years ago, while the defense was only a shadow of itself when Bethlehem was winning championships as often almost as days in a year.
"On display Saturday, it was evident that some of the stars of other days are badly slipping, or else they were terribly off form. It will be recalled we predicted that weakness earlier in the season. And we are better convinced than ever, after witnessing Saturday's match, that there will have to be more than one change in the Bethlehem team if the Steel Workers expect to uphold their reputation of other years. The heavy ground might have had something to do with the poor offensive and defensive work shown by the Upstaters. There is no discounting the fact, however, that some of the veterans have lost several seconds in speed. That is always anticipated. But the manner in which some of the Robins' forwards outfooted the Bethlehem defense indicated that the Steel boys are slowing up."