The Bethlehem soccer team was far better than the New York Nationals in the first game of the playoff series for the championship of the American Soccer League than the 2 to 1 score indicates at the close of a bitter struggle on Lehigh field before a crowd of five hundred enthusiastic fans on Monday evening.
The Steelmen did most of the pressing, but got the worst of the decisions and missed a flock of well labeled shots by the proverbial hair line. Bethlehem's defense was concrete, not once wavering and when tested proved equal to the occasion.
An outstanding luminary was Archie Stark, Bethlehem center forward playing with all his characteristic old time dash and speed which gained him the recognition as the greatest center forward in America.
Both goals were accounted for by Stark, one a beautiful lob in the first half which sailed over the head and escaped the reach of Renzulli, the Nats goalie, to drop into the net, and the second which rebounded off his body to locate in an unprotected net. Both goals were scored in the opening minute of play in each half.
The Nats goal was a pretty header from "Hooks" Leonard, a recent first division importation from Scotland, plying his first game with the New York club, and was notched in the closing minute of play in the final half.
The game was scarcely a minute gone when Stark broke through to beat the backs and from close range lob the ball over the head of Renzulli. From then on the exchanges were fast with Bethlehem doing most of the pressing and Renzulli the most handling. It looked as though the teams might turn around with Bethlehem one up but the Nats in a desperate rally and pretty passing carried the ball close to the net from where Leonard headed in and well out of the reach of Edwards.
Insofar as scoring was concerned the restart was a repetition of the opening half. On the kickoff Bethlehem broke away and Carnihan slid the ball up the center with Stark in pursuit. The latter had the backs beat but Renzulli leaving his goal beat him to the ball but his effort to clear was a hard drive which rebounded off the body of Stark and rolled back into the open net.
The going on the heavy turf did not seem to interfere with the speed of the game and neither did the driving rain which fell throughout the entire second half. Bethlehem tried desperately to increase its lead and several times it appeared as though Stark would get through but he was given strict attention by the two visiting backs and his mates on the front line did not seem to be in scoring mood.
Frustrated by their unsuccessful efforts in scoring, the Nats began substituting in the last half. Connaboy relieved Henderson and Leonard moved in the latter's position at center forward. AN instant later Gallagher was sent in to relieve Walker on the right wing. Bethlehem substituted Walter Jackson for Rollo and a short time later when Bethlehem attacked Granger was injured and Gillespie, although not physically fit, was called upon in the emergency.
The closing minutes of the game witnessed about the most determined attack of the entire fracas. The Nats were first to bombard the Bethlehem goal and the pressure was relieved when Connaboy shot bye, in an instant the Steelmen were hovering in the vicinity of the Nats goal. In rapid succession Gillespie, Stark and Jaap each fired a shot at the net, and while all were close, not any entered.
The two teams will meet in the second game on the Polo Grounds on Wednesday night. Bethlehem will go into the game with a one goal advantage which should prove quite an asset since the total number of goals will determine the survivor for the next round games. The lineup:
Bethlehem – Nationals
Edwards – G – Renzulli
McMeekin – RFB – Warden
Allen – LFB – Donald
W. Reid – RHB – Chatton
Carnihan – CHB – Steven
MacGregor – LHB – Martyn
Jaap – OR – Walker
Granger – IR – Carlson
Stark – CF – Henderson
Rollo – IL – Leonard
Goldie – OL – McKenna
Substitutions: Connaboy for Henderson; Morgan for Rollo, Gallagher for Walker; Gillespie for Granger. Goals, Stark 2, Leonard. Referee: M. Bloom. Linesmen: A. Williams and J. H. Carpenter. Time of halves, 45 minutes.