Photo: Mikey Reeves
Bethlehem Steel traveled to Villanova on Wednesday and defeated an undermanned Wildcat side 3-2.
Santi Moar netted his third goal of the preseason, while Yosef Samuel and Josue Monge rounded out the scoring for Bethlehem. Villanova recorded two second half goals to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough.
As with last week’s scrimmage against Junior Lone Star FC, the event divided into two segments. During the first part, which stretched roughly 70 minutes, the Steel’s core USL team played before a mixed group of Philadelphia Union Academy players and trialists finished the last 20 minutes or so. Injury prevention seemed a key goal for both sides. Game time was kept in NCAA fashion, and combined with the lack of roster numbers for Bethlehem or even a roster for Villanova, there were some uncertainties for observers.
Regardless, Bethlehem was excellent in their finishing.
The first goal came at the very end of the 6th minute, beginning with a Moar cross from the left that was flicked on toward the foot of Monge, who buried the first goal.
Nine minutes later, Moar penetrated in from the far left and, having drawn the keeper, struck a strong shot towards the right corner that a Nova defender saved off the line. Samuel, who started again and had a bright game offensively and defensively, drove the rebound into the net.
Five minutes later, the referee escorted Seku Conneh off the field for an elbow blow to the head of a Villanova defender, and Amoy Brown came on at striker. The finely honed precision of the better-practiced unit was disrupted ever so slightly, and the final Steel goal did not come until only one minute remained in the half.
The Steel’s last goal was started by Samuel, who stole the ball from a Villanova advancing defender and passed to Josh Heard in the center. Heard then found Moar under a full head of steam down the left side of the central channel. Moar ripped his shot off the right post and into the net.
Bethlehem hit the woodwork three times and could have been up 6-0 at the half.
At halftime, Jahmali Waite came on for starting trialist Billy Heavner of UMBC. Nova also made one substitution at halftime and renewed their commitment to high-paced effort.
The keen edge of the Steel attack was dulled after the break. Brown was seeing his longest stretch of game-playing time in his entire Steel career – 69 minutes – and Josue Monge left five minutes into the second half with an injury. At the 60th minute, Justin McMaster subbed on for Moar and Chris Nanco came on for Samuel.
The Steel continued to dominate possession and Villanova’s only offensive opportunities were quick-strike counter attacks.
Hugh Roberts beat the Villanova striker to the ball, but was tripped from behind. The referee judged it inadvertent, let play continue, and the striker broke in alone on Jahili Waite, deked him nicely and scored to make it 3-1 just after the 17th minute of the half.
With about 20 minutes left, the aforementioned unit of trialists leavened with academy boys came on to support Brown and Roberts. Transition uncertainties led to the second opposition goal.
Once the trialist-heavy side figured out who was where and developed cohesion, their fresh legs took over the game, and the weary Wildcats were pinned on the defensive. The referee judged their exhaustion wisely and refrained from cards, substituting his best Dutch Uncle act instead.
- Shorthanded Nova: Villanova deserves more than just credit for being game. Bethlehem head coach Brendan Burke benefited from scrimmaging them last year, did so again this year, and hopes to do so for a third time next season. Villanova’s limited numbers meant they played with no in-game substitutions. Full marks.
- Next up: The Steel will scrimmage Temple University on Saturday at noon at the Power Practice Complex at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester. The quick turnaround may bring some interesting lineup developments.
- Another Academy starter: YSC Academy’s Nyk Sessock started at right back and the Steel did not seem to miss a beat. All teams using the same system, and then having an opportunity for a little practice as a unit works out very well indeed.
Steel participants: Billy Heavner**, (Jahili Waite*, 46th; Tomas Romero*, 70th); Nyk Sessock* (Dawson McCartney*, 70th), Hugh Roberts, Mark McKenzie*, (Freeman Dwamena*, 70th), Charlie Reymann**, (Matt Real, 70th); James Chambers ©, (Chris Wingate**, 70th), Josue Monge*, (Dwayne Muckett**, 50th); Yosef Samuel, (Chris Nanco***, 60th), Josh Heard (Napo Matsoso**, 70th), Santi Moar, (Justin McMaster*, 60th); Seku Conneh, (Amoy Brown, 21st)
* means Academy player ** means trialist ***means Steel contract offer as yet unsigned