USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 1-1 Charleston Battery

Photos: Rob Simmons

In the first of its two April home games, Bethlehem Steel FC answered an end-of-half goal by the Charleston Battery from a corner kick with one of its own — also from a corner kick — deep into first-half stoppage time to tie the match 1-1 and split the points on the day.

Steel head coach Brendan Burke was disappointed that the dominance of the ball his side displayed did not result in more goals, but he was pleased that Goodman Stadium remains a fortress in which the Steel control opponents and expect results.

The two goal scorers competing

Charleston’s goal came in the 43rd minute on a free header by Skylar Thomas directly from Jarad van Shaik’s corner. It was Thomas’s first goal for the Battery.

Six minutes later, as first half stoppage time was ending, Anthony Fontana bent his corner towards the far upper corner of the net. Retreating Battery keeper Odisnel Copper deflected it out but did not possess it. And in the resulting melee two Charleston defenders failed where Steel striker Cory Burke succeeded. Burke’s equalizer was his club-leading 14th career goal for the Steel, and it split the points between the two sides.

Bethlehem held possession nearly 65% of the game, completed 556 passes (316 in the first half), and took eleven shots to Charleston’s six. But only three Steel shots were on goal, while Charleston put two of six shots on frame. The possession imbalance is not a surprise since that is how Charleston head coach Mike Anhauser’s teams usually play.

The Battery defending a cross

Tactically, the game was played as expected. Bethlehem deployed the usual very high restraining line with frequent high pressure against the Battery. Exactly as coach Burke predicted — and coach Anhauser explained afterwards — Charleston focused on defending first, having surrendered five goals last week to New York Red Bulls 2.

When the Battery did maintain possession, they pressed forward with both wing backs, leaving Cory Burke alone 1 v 3, a circumstance the Steel tried to exploit. The big Jamaican almost made it work against the odds several times. Quite consistently, Burke surprises defenders early in games with his sell-out style of defending. None of the surprises became goals on the day.

With Brandon Aubrey suspended and the first team down to three healthy center backs (and with the entire organization having only two healthy left backs) there were no defenders on Bethlehem’s bench. In an emergency, Mike Catalano would have been thrown into the breach.

Winger Eric Ayuk appeared again at right back and did a reasonably good job. He again seemed technically rusty, reminding all that he got few actual games last year in Sweden, but no one can ever fault his fearless, endless energy and willingness to fight, as coach Burke highlighted in his postgame comments.

Three points:

Lineup firsts. Starting nine members of the Philadelphia Union’s bench sets a new record for the Bethlehem Steel. Only Prosper Chiluya at left back and Matt Mahoney at right center back started from the Steel. And for the first time Kris Shakes backed up someone other than Tomas Romero, who did not dress.

Coach-speak. Coaches develop the concept behind the cliché “50-50 balls” and refer to lessening odds of success in the same fashion, 40-60, 30-70, and 20-80. If there is anyone better in the entire Keystone Sports and Entertainment LLC stable of players at winning 20-80 balls than Cory Burke, PSP would like to know who it is.

A stronger contrast in playing style at the number 9 than the one offered by Burke and his 75th minute substitute Brandon Allen would be hard to imagine. Burke looks at a defender with the ball at his feet like a starving wolf contemplating prey. Allen on the other hand maintains possession in the offensive third with smooth almost invincible precision. Battery center backs Skylar Thomas and Taylor Mueller got quite the workout on the day but rose to the challenge.

Replacing Chambo. In James Chambers’ absence, John McCarthy became the seventh gameday captain in Bethlehem Steel history (after Ryan Richter, Maurice Edu, Brian Carroll, Cory Burke and Seku Conneh).

Adam Najem took over the spark plug role, playing next to Derrick Jones in the central spine behind Anthony Fontana. His size inhibits him as a defensive destroyer, but his positioning seems excellent, and his passing was the fulcrum that sustained Bethlehem’s possession edge. Fontana, it must be said, was no slouch in that department either.

Lineups

Bethlehem: John McCarthy*©; Eric Ayuk*, Matt Mahoney, Mark McKenzie*, Prosper Chiluya; Derrick Jones*, Anthony Fontana*; Marcus Epps* (Chris Nanco ’82), Adam Najem*, Fabian Herbers* (Santi Moar ’67); Cory Burke* (Brandon Allen ’75). Unused Substitutes: Kris Shakes**; Brenden Aaronson**, Aidan Apodaca, Mike Catalano. *Union, **Academy Unavailable: Omar Holness, Drew Skundrich, James Chambers, Olivier Mbaizo.

Charleston: Odisnel Cooper; Jay Bolt, Taylor Mueller, Skylar Thomas, Jarad van Schaik; Tah Anunga, Neveal Hacksaw; Victor Mansarray (Gordon Wild ’70), Kotaro Higashi; Ataulla Guerra, Ian Svantesson (Patrick Okonkwo ’75). Unused Substitutes: Joe Kuzminsky; Ryan Arambula, Vincenzo Candela, Angelo Kelly.

Scoring Summary:

Charleston:      43′ – Skylar Thomas (Jarad van Shaik)
Bethlehem:      45 + 4′  Cory Burke

Disciplinary Summary:

Charleston:      55′  Jarad Van Shaik (caution)
Charleston:      86′  Neval Hackshaw (caution)
Bethlehem:      90′ – Eric Ayuk (caution)

Officials: Ref: Lorant Varga, AR1: Ian McKay, AR2: Amilicar Sicaju, 4th: Jay Hutchinson

6 Comments

  1. Ayuk at RB a couple games now is very interesting. Could really be an offensive force there. That midfield looking pretty good to me. Lots of potential interchange there.

    • Tim Jones says:

      I worry about his default positioning, and am not sharp enough to guess whether he has taken it because coach Burke has known that Nashville and Charleston were not likely to exploit his aggressiveness and advised him to take the location, or whether he’s getting away with it because the opponent is not set up to exploit him.

      • Yeah I could see that being a problem. He just seems to have that aggressive mentality of a defender. He could turn into a pretty good wingback.

  2. John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

    Interesting that the Steel seem to mirror the Union game from the previous day. Can’t say anyone really stood out besides Ayuk who was playing out of position.

  3. WeAreSteel2K18 says:

    Nice write-up as always. It’s a shame Spring just can’t seem to arrive. The brutal weather kept away even a lot of the diehards on Sunday. Even more of a shame not to get 3 points out of this one. That’s two straight weeks where I thought the Steel were the better team. The above commenter is correct in saying it was a lot like the Union on Saturday.

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