USL Match report

Match Report: Bethlehem Steel 0-2 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Photo courtesy Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies

Bethlehem Steel couldn’t spoil the home opener for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, falling 2-0 to the visitors on Saturday night thanks to second-half goals from Georgi Hristov and ex-Union man Leo Fernandes.

Bethlehem, featuring six starters from the Philadelphia Union first team, tried to run with Tampa by playing an MLS-level pace on the attack, and for the first several minutes the Rowdies were back on their heels. But by the 15th minute the hosts took command of the midfield and attacked successfully, particularly down the right flank. Tampa also did a better job than Bethlehem of remaining compact when defending.

Tampa right winger Junior Flemmings had to leave in the 32nd minute, injured after a clash which left his marker Steel left back Prosper Chiluya with a cut on his chin, and the right channel pressure eased as Sebastian Guenzatti, Flemmings’ replacement, did not offer the same level of pace, conditioning, and threat.

The first half ended scoreless, but not for Tampa’s lack of trying. The hosts had 14 shots, including seven on goal, to go along with seven corner kicks in the first 45 minutes. Steel goalkeeper John McCarthy was magnificent, supporting an inexperienced Bethlehem defense missing starters Mark McKenzie and Matt Real due to international duty.

The first half was an offensive show that entertained everyone, as Brendan Burke implied in his comments at half-time. In the second half a superior team broke through twice and suppressed its tiring opponent’s offensive efforts until its own legs began to wear out in the last ten minutes and stoppage time.

Rowdies striker Georgi Hristov headed a well-served free kick from defensive central midfielder Jake Blake in the 61st minute past McCarthy.

Eight minutes later right back David Najem found Leo Fernandes with an excellent long switch, and the winger scored a presumably satisfying goal against his old teammate. His drive found the far post faster than McCarthy could drop, sealing the win for Tampa Bay.

Next wee, Bethlehem returns north to host expansion side Nashville SC. Kickoff at Goodman Stadium on Saturday, March 31 is at 2:00 p.m.

Three Points

News from Spain: Homegrown left back Matt Real who started against Richmond last Sunday, started last Wednesday in Spain with the USYNT U-20s and coach Tab Ramos, as did fellow homegrown center back Mark McKenzie. Friday McKenzie started, subbing off after 62 minutes, while Real came on as a sub at halftime. The French won the opener 2-0, while the Americans won the follow-on 1-0. The final match, against a youth team from Athletico Madrid in Madrid, is this coming Tuesday.

The one available non-stop flight on Wednesday clocks in at eight hours and 25 minutes, landing at 3:35 p.m. local time in Philadelphia. That suggests Thursday off, practicing with the Steel Friday, and playing against Nashville Saturday afternoon for both McKenzie and Real.

Steel Starters v Rowdies

Defensive Debuts: In place of McKenzie and Real, Bethlehem started A. J. Paterson at center back and Prosper Chiluya at left back. Paterson played at left center back, where he is learning a new position. He needed defensive center mid James Chambers to stay close to help cover Hristov. Chiluya matched up against Junior Flemmings to start, and while he got schooled several times early he grew into the game. He has good pace, good positioning, and excellent control of the ball at his feet. By the end of the first half he had adjusted well to his first exposure to the North American game. He will push Matt Real from below on the organizational depth chart, if future performances match this one.

Bethlehem’s Man of the Match: It has to be John McCarthy. Tampa more than compensated him for his lack of work the week before against Richmond. And he did very well. He would have needed Andre Blake’s rocket legs and reflexes to have stopped either goal. A lesser keeper would have let in several more.

Lineups

Bethlehem: John McCarthy*; Matt Mahoney, Brandon Aubrey, A. J. Paterson , Prosper Chiluya (Mike Catalano 82’); James Chambers (C.), Derrick Jones*; Marcus Epps*, Anthony Fontana*, Fabian Herbers* (Santi Moar 67’); Cory Burke* (Brandon Allen 74’). Unused Substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Tonny Temple**, Chris Nanco. *Union players, **Academy players

Tampa: Cody Mizell; David Najem, Hunter Gorskie, Neill Collins, Zach Portillos; Joe Cole (C.) (Lance Rozeboom 74’), Jack Blake, Marcel Shafer; Leo Fernandes, Georgi Hristov, Junior Flemmings (Sebastian Guenzatti 32’; Joachim Graf 85’). Unused Substitutes: Akira Fitzgerald; Max Lachowecki, Ivan Magalhaes, Michael Nanchoff, , ,

Scoring Summary:

Tampa:      61st       Georgi Hristov (Jack Blake)
Tampa:      69th      Leo Fernandes (David Najem)

Disciplinary Summary:

Bethlehem:       Fabian Herbers      54th Yellow Card (professional foul)
Tampa:              David Najem           90th Yellow Card

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