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USL fines Bethlehem Steel FC for facility conditions at La Salle

The USL has issued a fine to Bethlehem Steel FC and demanded that it make improvements to its temporary facilities at La Salle University.

A USL Select ball lays on the pitch at Charleston's MUSC Health Stadium on June 11, 2019. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

USL Championship side Bethlehem Steel FC took a loss on the pitch last Sunday, falling 4-1 to Nashville SC, and now the club will suffer a defeat in its wallet too.

A league spokesperson told Pro Soccer USA that the USL issued an undisclosed fine to the Steel this week for the facility conditions at its current temporary home, McCarthy Stadium at La Salle University. The USL has demanded that the Steel improve those conditions.

The Steel (3-7-4) were playing their matches this season at Talen Energy Stadium, the home of its MLS parent club, the Philadelphia Union.

But last week, the Union said it would be moving three Steel games in June to other locations. It was announced that Bethlehem would play its June 9 game against Nashville and June 15 contest against Saint Louis at McCarthy Stadium. A venue hasn’t been set for the Steel’s third home game this month, on June 22 against the league-leading Tampa Bay Rowdies.

This was done, according to a statement from Union chief business officer Tim McDermott, to give the new field installed at Talen “time to recover and grow.”

So, the Steel turned to McCarthy Stadium at La Salle University, which was built in 1936. Based on fan photos on social media from the match, Nashville SC didn’t have much of a locker room on Sunday, and met in a circle of folding chairs near a set of bleachers.

Nashville head coach Gary Smith was not pleased with the conditions he and his players were subjected to.

“The circumstances weren’t very natural or normal having a change of venue, it affected an awful lot of things. Travel, obviously the field and the quality of the surface, the size of the surface, but most importantly, some of the facilities here have been diabolical,” Smith was quoted as saying on the club’s website. “But it makes the victory, and coming from behind, even sweeter. In adversity sometimes, you see the best of people, and we have in our group today.”

Just 417 people attended the match.

Prior to this season, the Steel were playing at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium, but the football field there doesn’t have proper lights and the nearby soccer pitch doesn’t meet USL standards for seating capacity or locker rooms.

“We have been vocal about our desire to play Steel FC matches in Bethlehem this season despite our overall restrictions in doing so on a full-time basis,” McDermott said in a June 7 statement from the club. “We have been working toward identifying locations in the Lehigh Valley at which we can play matches; unfortunately, venue availability and scheduling reasons prohibit us from playing the June 9 and June 15 matches at those venues, including Goodman Stadium. We remain open to the possibility of future matches in Bethlehem this season, pending availability and USL approval.”

A spokesperson for the Bethlehem Steel declined to comment on the fine and the facility conditions at McCarthy Stadium, but said that the club is still working on finding a venue for its June 22 match against the Rowdies and hopes to make an announcement soon.

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