USL - Bethlehem Steel FC

Match report: Bethlehem 3-2 Pittsburgh

Photo: Rob Simmons

The Bethlehem Steel are back above the playoff line – by a gnat’s eyelash.

On a hot afternoon that mandated two hydration breaks, an initially dominant Bethlehem Steel outlasted a desperate second-half comeback by a veteran Pittsburgh Riverhound side to hold on for a 3-2 victory. The win puts Bethlehem into eighth place, even with with New York Red Bulls 2 on points but ahead in the standings due to tiebreakers.

The Steel scored twice within the game’s first eight minutes.

Possession, precise ball movement, and an outstanding space-creating off-the-ball run created the lead.

Adam Najem scored in the 5th minute off a defense-skewering pass from Santi Moar.

Cory Burke did the same three minutes later on a similar pass  from Najem.

Then in the 37th minute, Burke — with a formal assist from Jake McGuire but benefiting mightily from a Derrick Jones space-creating run — slammed a powerful strike off the left post and into the right side-netting to put the Steel’s toes onto the turf of an unprecedented lead.

Three minutes later, Auston Trusty, already on a professional foul yellow card, yanked Pittsburgh Striker Corey Hertzog off the ball in the box. Hertzog converted the penalty kick, going down the middle on the left-diving  McGuire.

After the hydration break at 30 minutes, Pittsburgh’s play had became noticeably “more physical,” forcing the referee to issue three more yellows in the following 15 minutes.

The game changed in the second half, Riverhound halftime adjustments countered the Steel’s effort to continue dominating midfield, and they reversed the effort and possession statistics in the second half.

While for most of the game Steel fans were thinking “Thank You, Mr. Roberts,” for their center back Hugh Roberts’s repeated, poised game-saving clearances, in the 64th minute Roberts got too cute in possession and was stripped in a dangerous position. Hertzog pounded the stripped ball home past a helpless McGuire for a brace of his own.

There were two heart-in-the-throat defensive moments for the Steel bracketing Hertzog’s goal.

One was a double save by Jake McGuire in the 63rd when he deflected a powerful blast but left the rebound for Pittsburgh right backShannon Gomez. McGuire threw himself towards that rebound and deflected Gomez’s attempt wide over the end line.

Then in the 67th minute, Trusty stumbled, allowing a dangerous chance on goal. Roberts raced across to slide and block the shot, but the rebound was falling to an onrushing Riverhound when Trusty returned Roberts’s favor by winning the rebound race and clearing the danger.

By the end of the game, both teams were spent, having left it all on the field. The Steel’s body of work this season against their fellow Pennsylvania sides Harrisburg and Pittsburgh suggests they deserve inclusion in the Keystone Derby in the future.

The Steel play next on Wednesday, Sep. 27 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, hosting the Florida side at Goodman Stadium in the game postponed by Hurricane Irma.

Three points

There’s something about Pittsburgh: Cory Burke scored twice, taking the team lead this season with 8. He has scored a brace in each of his last last two games against Pittsburgh.

The assist brothers: Santi Moar held the team lead in assists with 5 for the season for all of three minutes before Adam Najem drew himself even. Najem totaled a goal and an assist for the game, and Moar was unstoppable on attack in the left channel. The Riverhounds had no answers for the Spaniard’s skill, quickness and speed.

Four blind mice: Head coach Brendan Burke obeyed the injunction handed him before halftime by the fourth official that his voice be heard no more in objection to officials’ calls. Assistant coach Steve Hogan substituted his own Irish passion for Burke’s as the teams left for the break. Nonetheless it is likely that Burke would have participated in a private chorus of the legendary soccer hymn “Four Blind Mice,” had opportunity offered. He did well to avoid formal sanctions.

[Editor’s note: PSP woke up Monday morning with a postscript on its mind about this match .] 

Postscript

Note below in the Pittsburgh lineup data that Romeo Parkes was substituted off in the 69th minute. The move was made because the player who had been a major headache for the Steel in the first game at Goodman was neutralized by a well-judged tactical adjustment.  A quiet  “Well done,” goes to coach Burke and fellow coaches Steve Hogan, Jeff Cook and Jay Cooney for conceiving and teaching the change, and to the players themselves for carrying it out.

Two goals in 8 minutes has been confirmed as the fastest the Steel have ever scored two, eclipsing the May 2016 match away to Orlando City B, and three goals in 37 minutes  is faster than three in 54 last summer hosting Wilmington.

Lineups

Bethlehem: Jake McGuire*; Aaron Jones*, Hugh Roberts, Auston Trusty*, Charlie Reymann; Derrick Jones*, James Chambers, C; Marcus Epps* (Chris Nanco 46’), Adam Najem*, Santi Moar (Seku Conneh ’68); Cory Burke (Josh Heard ’88). Unused substitutes: Tomas Romero; Matt Mahoney, Yosef Samuel, Amoy Brown. *Union loanee

Pittsburgh: Matt Perella; Taylor Washington, Jack Jamal (Gale Agbossomonde 46’), Tobi Adewole, Shannon Gomez; Stephan Okai, Victor Souto, Kevin Kerr, C, Romeo Parkes (Kenroy Howell ’69); Corey Hertzog, Kay Banjo (Chevy Walsh 61’). Unused substitutes: Brenden Alfery; Jack Thompson, Duffie Ritchie, Danny Earls.

Scoring summary

Bethlehem:       5th minute      Adam Najem (Santi Moar)
Bethlehem:       8th minute      Cory Burke (Adam Najem)
Bethlehem      37th minute      Cory Burke (Jake McGuire)
Pittsburgh:     40th minute      Corey Hertzog (PK)
Pittsburgh:     64th minute      Corey Hertzog (Chevy Walsh)

Disciplinary summary

Bethlehem:      29th minute      Auston Trusty (professional foul)
Pittsburgh:      34th minute      Stephen Okai (foul)
Pittsburgh:      36th minute      Jamal Jack (foul)
Bethlehem:      41st minute       Santi Moar (dissent)

Referee: Bardhyl Pashaj

2 Comments

  1. “gnat’s eyelash”

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