With a movement stirring among the service clubs and local boosters to keep Bethlehem identified in big league soccer, it is most opportune that a ruling of the American Soccer League, while not strictly on the up and up as many view it, will bring a most attractive game to Bethlehem and one in which the local booters will be fighting in the first round to survive the series for the league championship.
Announcement was made by the management of the local team this morning that the game with the New York Nationals as the opponents will be played on Lehigh Field, formerly the Bethlehem Steel Athletic Field on next Monday, with the kickoff promptly at 5:30, as the result of a ruling made by the league executives last night.
If ever the club needed the moral support of local soccer fans it is for this game for in this clash the Steelmen will strive hard to eliminate the Nationals, a club they contend have no business to be considered in the playoff for the championship but which was favored by the league because of the excellent campaigning of the second half schedule.
While rivalry is bitter against Boston, Fall River and New Bedford, the other clubs qualifying, the feeling is hardly as acute as that which now exists between the Steelmen and the Nats. It was on the strength of the Nats victory over Bethlehem that the Gotham booters gained their flimsy argument to make an appeal to the league executives and on the strength of which the league admitted the club as the fifth member. The surviving club of the two will hinge on the highest total of goals scored in the two games and if the Steelmen can repeat their success on the last appearance of the Nats here when the margin of difference was something like five goals, the Nats and not Bethlehem will be eliminated.
Additional color is contributed to the game by the fact that the two teams have already been crowned champions, each have won one of the two major competitions thus far decided. The Nationals stepped out and grabbed the laurels in the National Cup competition, the blue ribbon classic sponsored by the U. S. F. A. Bethlehem annexed the Lewis trophy for the first time in the four years of campaigning by winning the American League Cup tie which was competed among the big professional clubs.
There is no doubt that the Bethlehem management will make every effort to field its strongest club on the occasion of the Nationals invasion. Several of the players are on the injured list but drastic measures will be taken to have them in condition for the Monday game. In the last meeting with the Nats Tom Gillespie, dashing outside right, was among the missing, nursing an injured knee. The veteran Bob MacGregor, just recovering from an severe attack of grippe, was not in the best of condition and neither was Stark, center forward, who returned to the lineup after an absence of several games. With this trio in harness and at their best, together with the other regulars who have played an important part in Bethlehem's victories, the Nationals are certain to find strong opposition.
Looseness in the Bethlehem defense has been quite apparent in the last several games and it is probably this department that threatens to tax the wisdom of the management in selecting the strongest combination. The team, however, coming back to the old home grounds, a pitch on which the players have developed their combination and are at their best, will have the slight advantage of playing on home soil and last but by no means do their stuff with the moral encouragement of the home town fans.