Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC
Bethlehem Steel FC secured its first win of the season Sunday by knocking off FC Cincinnati 2-0 behind a second half brace from Seku Conneh.
Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt saved a first half penalty kick from the Steel’s Liberian scorer and made a few other notable saves to rescue his ten-man side from a worse defeat. The penalty resulted from a red card offense by Cincinnati right back Paul Nicholson, the last man back denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, who pulled Cory Burke down from behind in the box in the 24th minute.
The match turned on three things:
- Cincinnati seemed bereft of offensive ideas once center attacking midfielder Andrew Wiedeman was sacrificed to replace the banished defender.
- Steel head coach Brendan Burke started a strong Steel lineup that had no easily exploitable vulnerabilities to pace, the repeated pattern of the Ohioans’ attack before and after the sending off.
- Union reserve center back Jack Elliott was a revelation on offense while playing defensive midfield.
Burke experimented boldly in two areas of his team shape, center back and striker.
At center back, he started 18-year-old academy senior Mark McKenzie next to 18-year-old academy graduate Auston Trusty. The two teenagers shut down FC Cincinnati’s striker Djiby Fall, who had scored in both of the Ohio side’s previous matches.
At the other end of the shape, he started Seku Conneh and Cory Burke together, having them rotate between center attacking midfield and striker, although it needs to be said that they were as often side by side as they were one behind the other. Cory Burke in particular showed remarkable energy winning errant balls and demonstrating improved dribbling skills when surrounded.
The Steel got away with their quasi double-striker formation because Adam Najem at center midfielder and Elliott behind him did an excellent job pushing forward in support. Bethlehem’s pace across the back line just barely managed to contain former Union player Jimmy McGlaughlin on the left and Kadeem Dacres, the high restraining line being ably reinforced by Steel goalkeeper Jake McGuire, who made five saves in the first half alone.
The Steel deserve full credit for surviving the psychological blow of not scoring the penalty.
The offensive play of the game came after halftime in the 47th minute when Elliott delivered an inch perfect 40-yard aerial that Conneh trapped perfectly outside the penalty box on the left, carried past two defenders and curled decisively into the opposite upper 90.
The killing stroke to the match was delivered by Spaniard Santi Moar, who had penetrated the end line only to have his shot bounce off Hildebrandt. Moar collected the rebound and stroked it to unmarked Conneh inside the six, who pounded it home in the 60th.
- Rule change in action: Injury and a red card forced Cincinnati to use up two of its three subs by the 28th minute forcefully illustrating the impact of the rule change.
- Seriously, young: The grizzled veteran of the Steel defense was Trusty with 21 North American professional starts.
- Grudge matches coming: The Steel have issued quite the challenge to Cincinnati, who they play twice more this season. The Ohioans return to Goodman Stadium on April 29, and the Steel travel to the Queen City on May 20. Payback will be on the agenda.
Bethlehem: Jake McGuire*; Aaron Jones*, Mark McKenzie**, Auston Trusty*, Giliano Wijnaldum* (Charlie Reymann 85’); Jack Elliott* (Hugh Roberts 75’), Adam Najem*; Santi Moar (Issa Rayyan** 81’), Cory Burke, Marcus Epps*; Seku Conneh *Union loanee **Academy player Unused Subs: Matt Freese, Matt Mahoney, Josh Heard, Chris Nanco
Cincinnati: Mitch Hildebrandt; Matt Bahner, Paul Nicholson, Harrison Delbridge, Justin Hoyte (Tyler Polak 14’); Aodhan Quinn, Kenny Walker; Kadeem Dacres (Omar Cummings 73’), Andrew Wiedeman (Mele Temguia 28’), Jimmy McGlaughlin; Djiby Fall Unused Subs: Dallas Joye, Corben Bone, Victor Mansaray, Andy Craven
BSFC: Conneh (from Elliott) 47′
BSFC: Conneh (from Moar) 60′
FCC: Red Card – Nicholson 24′
BSFC: Yellow Cards – C. Burke 29′, McKenzie 34′, Jones 45+2’