USL - Bethlehem Steel FC / USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel FC 1 – 1 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Bethlehem Steel FC surrendered a late game-tying goal but managed to extend their unbeaten streak to five after battling to a draw on the road against Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg on Saturday night.

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC. Steel FC’s Chris Nanco #37 claps as Hugh Roberts #42 and Seku Conneh #36 celebrate a second half goal scored by Conneh. Conneh now has nine goals on the campaign and is tied with fellow forward Cory Burke for the team high.

Following a first half which ended scoreless, Steel FC were able to strike first in the 56th minute when Seku Conneh riffled a right footed cannon by Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Bethlehem defender Matt Real forced a turnover in the midfield which allowed James Chambers the time and space to spark a give and go connection with youngster Brendan Aaronson.  Chambers collected Aaronson’s one-touch return pass and hit Conneh with a perfectly placed driven pass. Conneh skillfully flicked the pass to his right and hit it one time into the back of the net. Conneh’s goal was the only shot on frame for Bethlehem the whole match.

Unfortunately, Bethlehem could not hold onto their one goal lead. Late in the match, Tampa Bay earned a free kick opportunity roughly 25 yards away from goal during the 79th minute following a late tackle by second half sub, Santi Moar. Tampa Bay’s free kick chance was blocked but the ball was not securely cleared, granting Rowdies defender Darnell King enough room to pick out Sebastian Guenzatti for the tying goal in the 80th minute.

Following the equalizer, the match entered a chaotic and frenzied period of play.  Both head coaches as well as several players on the field began to express some emotions as the final minutes ticked away.  There were four yellow cards handed out, three of which were for dissent. Tonight’s referee struggled with consistency throughout the match. Post-game interviews with both coaches revealed some frustrations with the ref’s decisions.

Bethlehem Steel FC midfielder Yosef Samuel #49 and Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Darnell King #2 compete for possession during a 1-1 draw Saturday night. Photo Courtesy of Tampa Bay Rowdies. 

“They got every call so we had to really dig in and fight,” said Steel head coach Brendan Burke – who could be heard through the broadcast shouting at referees late in the second half.

Bethlehem’s game plan in the first half was designed to win the possession battle. Steel FC did just that successfully throughout the first 30 minutes of the match. The later moments of the first half, Tampa Bay finally started to disrupt Bethlehem’s build-up and would end up winning the possession battle. Tampa Bay found early success attacking down the right side of Bethlehem Steel’s defense and midfield as Josh Heard and Aaron Jones were beat to the end line on multiple occasions.

The second half presented both teams with more shots and chances – but mainly for Tampa Bay. After Steel FC scored, their game plan shifted to a more conservative style. Their defensive mindset could not withstand the constant pressure applied by Tampa Bay however.

The Rowdies executed a high-pressure system late in the second half which created many chances and threatened Steel FC goalkeeper Jake McGuire often. “We were pressing and pressing and pressing and just couldn’t get that second goal. We made it hard work conceding early in the second half,” said Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell.

Campbell and his squad would have surely welcomed a win as they would have clinched a spot in the USL Cup playoffs. Tampa Bay are looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and had a chance to clinch this past Wednesday against Steel FC, but Bethlehem stood strong forcing a draw. Steel FC remain tough to beat.

Three points

  • Road warriors: Bethlehem continue to produce results on the road. Overall, Steel FC have earned 18 points away from home with a 5-6-3 road record. They have forced eight results from a total of 14 road games to date. “I’m really proud of my guys, we’re good on the road. They’re fearless,” said Head Coach Brendan Burke post-game.
  • Academy time: Brendan Aaronson made only his third appearance for Bethlehem in central midfield playing a solid all-around game logging a full 90+ minutes of work. Aaronson executed a perfectly timed give and go with James Chambers who then found Seku Conneh for Steel FC’s lone goal.
  • Undefeated streak: Steel FC extend their undefeated streak to five matches after drawing with Tampa Bay two times this week. Bethlehem have only lost seven times all season – Louisville City FC is the only team to with fewer losses at six. Bethlehem are now only nine points away from clinching a playoff spot.

Lineups

Bethlehem

Jake McGuire, Matthew Real, Matthew Mahoney, Hugh Roberts, Aaron Jones, Michael Pellegrino, James Chambers, Yosef Samuel (Cory Burke 59’), Brendan Aaronson, Josh Heard (Chris Nanco 46’), Seku Conneh (Santi Moar 77’). Unused Subs: Tomas Romero, Charlie Reymann, Seth Kuhn, Aaron Brown

Tampa Bay

Matt Pickens, Zac Portillos, Neill Collins, Hunter Gorskie, Darnell King, Marcel Schăfer, Keith Savage, Joe Cole, Darwin Jones (Sebastian Guenzatti 64’), Martin Paterson (Walter Paterson 75’), Alex Morrell. Unused Subs: Akira Fitzgerald, Tamika Mkandawire, Kyle Porter, Leo Fernandes, Martin Vingaard

Scoring Summary

Bethlehem:        56th minute       Seku Conneh (from James Chambers & Brendan Aaronson)

Tampa Bay:        80th minute       Sebastian Guenzatti (from Darnell King)

Discipline Summary

Bethlehem:        26th minute       Josh Heard (foul)

Tampa Bay:        29th minute       Hunter Gorskie (foul)

Bethlehem:        58th minute       Yosef Samuel (foul)

Tampa Bay:        62nd minute      Joe Cole (foul)

Bethlehem:        74th minute       Aaron Jones (foul)

Bethlehem:        89th minute       Jake McGuire (time wasting)

Tampa Bay:        94th minute       Walter Restrepo (dissent)

Bethlehem:        94th minute       Hugh Roberts (dissent)

Bethlehem:        96th minute       Cory Burke (dissent)

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