On a sunny, cold, windy Saturday afternoon, Bethlehem Steel FC defeated Temple University 1-0 in a friendly.
Midfielder Adam Najem scored the game’s only goal, hitting upper 90 on a shot from distance in the 20th minute.
From the Steel’s perspective, the scrimmage separated itself into two parts.
The first 62 minutes featured a Bethlehem lineup with:
- eight Union bench players, including Brian Carroll and Giliano Wijnaldum,
- two primarily Steel players,
- and a YSC Academy senior who has spent the entire preseason with the Union in Florida.
The last 28 minutes were played by eight Steel players and three trialists.
In the first half, the combination of the wind, long stretches of possession and high midfield defensive pressure kept Temple pinned inside its own half. The starters had not practiced together much, so the precision necessary to break down Temple’s packed defensive third was not sharp enough.
Temple had few opportunities to penetrate the Steel defensive third. Those few were usually single or dual forays, and the Owls did not get forward in numbers in the first half.
Changing the wind at the interval improved the scrimmage’s competitive balance for the first fifteen minutes. Temple had some brief periods of sustained attacking possession but only one dangerous threat on goal.
The Union bench side was tiring a bit, in addition to having the aerial dimension of its passing disrupted by the wind.
When the mass substitution came in 63rd minute, defensive cohesion did not break down, there was no Temple goal, and Temple’s time of possession actually shrank. Eight players who have been practicing together for a month plus two intelligent, savvy, technical trialists were smoother together than the scratch side of starters.
- Ironman: Hugh Roberts played the full 90 minutes, as he did Wednesday against Villanova.
- Effective, if gangling: Jack Elliott has tremendous flexibility in his hips, uses that to deliver angled passes upfield behind him while facing his own goalkeeper, and does it accurately enough to maintain possession.
- An organization first: Union Academy senior Anthony Fontana is the first academy player to spend an entire Union preseason with the first team in Florida. Further, he appeared in multiple scrimmages and exhibition games, something also without precedent for an academy player.
Jake McGuire* (Billy Heavner,** 63); Aaron Jones* (Josh Heard, 63), Jack Elliott* (Chris Wingate, ** 63) Hugh Roberts, Giliano Wijnaldum* (Charlie Reymann, 63); Brian Carroll* (James Chambers, 46), Anthony Fontana* (Duane Muckett **, 63); Marcus Epps* (Amoy Brown, 63), Adam Najem* (Santi Moar, 63), Chris Nanco*** (Yosef Samuel, 63); Seku Conneh (Corey Burke, 63)
* practicing with the Union; ** trialist; *** has not yet signed the contract offered by the Steel