USL Match report

Rubber Match report: Harrisburg City Islanders 0 – Bethlehem Steel FC 1

Photo courtesy of USL

Bethlehem Steel FC won the season series rubber match against Harrisburg City Islanders away on the island in the Susquehannah Tuesday night 1-0.

In the 54th minute Seku Conneh received excellent long service in the left corner, found Adam Najem running onto the corner of the box, and Najem laid off to James Chambers. The Steel’s captain eluded multiple defenders and struck the ball past Harrisburg goalkeeper Brandon Miller into the net for the only score of the game.

With the result, Harrisburg remains in last place in the east with ten points from a record of 2-7-4.  Bethlehem rises to 22 points and have won 50% of its games this season at 7-6-1.  As of Tuesday night, they lie fourth in the table but will not play again until July 1st in the league, so their position will drop as other sides play later this week and early next.

The first half was a graceless exchange of attempts to get behind the opposing defense with long central passes out of the back line.  Only towards the last five minutes of the half did the Steel begin to possess the ball with short passes in the midfield.  Harrisburg’s central midfield triangle was perhaps beginning to tire.  Harrisburg played for the counterattack throughout, a strategy somewhat contradicted by them having their real speed threats on the bench.

The second half saw both teams make more of an attempt to play patient possession as halftime instruction and fatigue changed the first half’s relentless and unremarkable end-to-end counterattacking.  Harrisburg’s midfield was not dominated by any means in the second half, but Bethlehem had a moderate advantage in this new style of play.  All three of the City Islanders’ substitutes were speedy midfield attackers, but the Steel defense led by John McCarthy in goal was never heart-stoppingly threatened.

Of particular interest to Union fans, Keegan Rosenberry started at right back and seemed to play more within himself in a simpler more basic style of play at right back. He was never seriously threatened by recovering speed merchant Cardel Benbow.

Adam Najem, while neither consistently dominant nor invincible, had a more obvious impact on the Harrisburg defense than a few weeks ago at Goodman.  It was the exact same central midfield for the the hosts, especially Rashaad Olabiyi and Mouhamed Dabo.

Four points:

New Record: The Steel set a record for the number of Union loanees available for a match with ten. Only captain James Chambers and striker Seku Conneh started from the Steel. One of two Academy players, Anthony Fontana, started in the midfield.  The other, Tomas Romero, was the backup goal keeper.

The previous record for loanees was eight. Two of the ten loanees were on the bench, which is highly unusual compared to past practices.   It reflects that the Steel have a series of days off starting Wednesday.  The break will be the squad’s first since assembling February 1st.

Cory Burke: The Jamaican winger has been called up to his National team for the Caribbean Cup. He probably returns for the Steel’s July 1st match with Richmond.  But he then likely heads off with Jamaica again for the Gold Cup.  Jamaica begin play against Curacao in San Diego July 9th.

Indicative statistics: The Steel were offside ten times, six in the first half; and the Islanders, six with four in the 1st half. The Islanders had twelve shots with five on goal; the Steel, eight and two.  Fouls were even at eleven each.  The Steel completed 463 passes, noteworthy because coach Burke earlier in the year benchmarked 400 as a mark of success.

Most improved: While at this point Seku Conneh is the Steel’s most improved player since last season, young midfielder Yosef Samuel has worked hard to deserve a serious mention in that category.  The improvement is a strong credit to the young man, but without doubt his technical staff has helped out.


Bethlehem: John McCarthy*; Keegan Rosenberry*, Josh Yaro*, Richie Marquez* Giliano Wijnaldum*; James Chambers, Ken Tribbett*; Marcus Epps* (Yosef Samuel 81’), Adam Najem*, Anthony Fontana** (Chris Nanco 64’); Seku Conneh.  Unused substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Auston Trusty*, Aaron Jones*, Hugh Roberts, Santi Moar. —  Union loanee*, Academy Player**.

Harrisburg: Brandon Miller; Shawn McLaws (Danny DiPrima 87’), Travis Brent, Lee Nishanian, Abass Mohammed; Mouhamed Dabo, Rasheed Olabiyi; Michael Olla (Paul Wilson 61’), Josh Grosch (Cardel Benbow 75’), Jamie Thomas; Pedro Ribiero. Substitutes: Sean Lewis; Jake Bond, Griffin Libhart, Paul Wilson, Cardel Benbow, Frederick Opoku.

Scoring Summary:

Bethlehem:     James Chambers (Adam Najem, Seku Conneh)        53:53

Disciplinary Summary:

Bethlehem:     Giliano Wijnaldum     Yellow Card (professional foul)          74:20

Harrisburg:      Lee Nishanian             Red Card (last man back)                   79:41

Referee: Jorge Ramirez.


  1. Zizouisgod says:

    It’s been a lot more enjoyable watching Steel this season. You can see the improvements both individually and as a team.

    It would be nice to see the Union try to achieve a goal of 400 completed passes in each match.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    I’m thinking that the lineup above gives us a lot of clues as to who will start Saturday for the Union (and it won’t be Rosenberry, Yaro, Marquez, and Wijnaldum in the back like many are shouting for).

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      The Steel lineup had a great deal to do with playing a match on Tuesday after a game on Friday, I strongly suspect.

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