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Match report: Villanova 3-2 Bethlehem Steel FC

Photo: Rob Simmons

Following a 2-0 clean sheet victory over Chris Nanco’s alma mater Syracuse on the 24th, Bethlehem Steel FC traveled to the mainline Saturday, where their midfield struggled against Villanova losing 3-2. Villanova was the second of three college teams on their preseason schedule – Maryland 3/6.

“That was bad.” – Head Coach Brendan Burke

Steel FC looked flat from the opening kick. Fitness was a problem for many players which may not be surprising, as the club was playing their third match in just eight days. Villanova created more chances overall with 12 shots total, eight on frame. Steel FC registered just six on frame all day.

Bethlehem’s A.J. Paterson saw a lot of the ball. He is definitely a player who enjoys his touches and thrives being on the ball consistently. He scored his first goal with his forehead off the right foot of Nanco. Off a short corner, Steel FC executed a training ground play to perfection when Nanco received a return ball off the short corner and delivered a beautiful ball into Paterson. In the last minute of the match, forward Aidan Apodaca notched his third preseason goal. Apodaca finds the net often it seems.

Per NCAA rules, no academy players can play against an NCAA opponent. Currently 11 players are under contract with Steel FC but several were not dressed yesterday. A last-minute scramble of sorts took place to fill the holes in a skeleton like crew against Villanova. Two guest players, five trialists, and their only unsigned draft pick remaining – the promising center midfielder Mike Catalano. (Matt Danilack, Philadelphia’s 77th selection in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft was let go a few weeks back). First team player Marcus Epps played significant minutes and showed well all match.

Guest Players – a Villanova alum

A guest player was invited to play keeper considering Tomas Romero, the everyday starter, is an academy player.

Will Steiner was the invited goalkeeper to join Steel FC. Steiner played all 90+ minutes in net. Unfortunately, three goals allowed was not quite the outcome Steiner would have hoped for.

Why Steiner? He graduated from Villanova just last year and he deserved a look. It was certainly a memorable day for the young goalkeeper.

“It was definitely weird. Going into the game, you know these guys really well. You know what the team wants to do,” said Steiner when asked about playing against his former friends and teammates.

Despite allowing three goals and coming away without a W to speak for, Steiner’s spirits were high post-game. “It was fun though. Their team is looking really good so its fun to see my friends do well. Obviously wanted to beat them. But they [Villanova] look good the future is in good hands it looks like,” continued Steiner.

Trialists no more

Head coach Brendan Burke displayed visible signs of frustration after watching his midfield continually not play up to par all afternoon. He did, however, reiterate Steiner’s thoughts regarding an impressive Villanova squad.

“I thought Villanova were really energetic, connected well… They rolled the ball around, they played good soccer and we were the exact opposite for most of the game,” said Burke bluntly. “So that made my decision on a number of trialists… we were about half trialists, half part of our group today, and I don’t think either half was particularly good… That was bad,” said Burke.

When asked about specifics on any certain trialists, Burke remained professional and explained that news will become apparent within the next week. “Over the next few days people will be around or they won’t,” said Burke.

Left back Mickey George, right back Sam Wancowicz, and midfielders Audi Jepson, Gregory Messam Jr. and Sebastien Perquy will all know their fate very soon if they have not learned it already. Wancowicz showed no fear moving forward in the attack and neither did George.

Three games remain in preseason play

Within the first 10 days of March, Steel FC will have finalized their roster in hopes of a successful USL campaign. Just three matches are left on the preseason slate for the young Steel FC squad. Two of those matches occur at Power Training Complex adjacent to Talen Energy Stadium. March 4 and 10, Steel FC will play Pittsburgh Riverhounds followed by New York Red Bulls II along the Delaware River. A March 6 matchup against yet another NCAA opponent Maryland will prove to be a challenge as another mid-week contest.

The March 18 home opener against Richmond Kickers is slowly shaping up to be quite the event with an exciting roster comprised of a healthy mix of international players.

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