USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel FC defeats Charlotte Independence 4-1

Photos: Rob Simmons

On the hottest day of the 2018 season, Bethlehem Steel put four goals into the Charlotte Independence net before the Jacks pulled one back in the fourth minute of stoppage time to salve some pride and spoil the shoutout.

The National Weather Service reported the temperature at ABE International airport as 93 degrees at game time, and Charlotte’s starting XI reflected travelling overnight last Wednesday by sleeper bus to their third of three games in eight days (Saturday to Saturday inclusive). Three rookies started, and two more were on the bench along with four well-known offensive regulars.

The rustiness of the Charlotte side showed in the 22nd minute when Charlotte back up goalkeeper Brandon Miller picked up an innocuous back pass from center back Henry Kalungi rather than playing it with his feet. The consequent indirect free kick just inside the penalty box resulted in a Bethlehem shot and a  save by Miller.

Steel head coach Brendan Burke summarized the effect of the weather well: “It was a really hot day, so a couple people were probably a yard or so slow to the ball and we made them pay for it.” It might also show that old USL defenses are no longer fast enough to keep up with 2018’s game.

Nanco celebrates in the 10th

Because Charlotte were chasing the game for 80 minutes, being a yard slow never improved. The Steel seemed constantly to step up to intercept and then easily possessed the ball in front of the Charlotte defensive line and behind its midfield. The combination play of Santi Moar, Adam Najem, Fabian Herbers and Chris Nanco passed Charlotte by. All four men want the ball in tight spaces. The precision of their one-touch flicks to each other was impressive.

Since Charlotte needed to score after Nanco’s 10th minute opener, three of the four familiar names on the bench, midfielders Alex Martinez, Ccordell Cato and Yann Ekra, came on in the second half, but tired Steel legs kept the clean sheet until the fourth minute of stoppage time, when the oldest man on the pitch, starting striker Jorge Herrera, slammed home an uncleared melee ball from close range.

Charlotte showed signs of life off the second half tap, but Santi Moar had slotted across from the right side just inside the left post off a feed from Herbers at the end of the 46th minute to double their deficit.

Olivier Mbaizo cut out service to Charlotte’s left flank all evening and was an offensive threat up the Steel’s right flank. The introduction of well-known veteran Martinez by Charlotte at halftime did nothing to suppress the Cameroonian’s control of his channel.

Drew Skundrich notched his first professional goal in the 72nd minute after having found his first professional assist in the 10th to Nanco. He eliminated his errors in the second half, as his running helped suppress the improving quality of the Charlotte attack when Ekra, formerly of Harrisburg, and Cato joined Martinez to reinforce the attack.

The failure of coach Mike Jeffries’ stellar reinforcements to impact the match is perhaps the single most impressive feature of Bethlehem’s overall performance.

Fabian Herbers scored the Steel’s final goal in the 80th minute, in a carbon copy of Moar’s score back in the 46th save that Moar had the assist and Herbers the score instead of the other way around.

The frivolous fact of the match is that the Steel are undefeated in the month of June since June 5, 2016 when they lost 0-1 to the New York Red Bulls 2. It’s now twelve straight June games without a loss.

The Steel next play Penn FC and former Harrisburg City Islander standout Lucky Moksana in Harrisburg Friday night July 6th at 7 PM.

Three points:

Streak over: Matt Mahoney’s ironman streak ended today when Richie Marquez took the start at center back on a medical rehabilitation & conditioning assignment. Not surprisingly, Mahoney replaced Marquez at halftime, seamlessly it should be said.

Spread the wealth: Fabian Herbers had a goal and two assists, becoming the fourth Steel player ever to record two assists in one game. And Santi Moar’s strike ties him with both Derrick Jones and Herbers for the 2018 Bethlehem Steel goal-scoring lead. Each man has three.

Transition: Now that the class of 2018 has graduated from the Academy schoolhouse, the U-15 squad has completed its showcase, and the U-16/17s and U-18/19s have finished their playoff runs, Academy players for the Steel are in transition. Some are home on vacation, others may be off to university summer school. The names that have been most prominent this season are all underclassmen, Tomas Romero, Brenden Aaronson, and Ben Ofeimu, so they will continue through the summer as presences for the Steel.

Lineups:

BS: Jake McGuire*; Olivier Mbaizo*, Brandon Aubrey, Richie Marquez*(Matt Mahoney ’46), Matt Real*; James Chambers, Drew Skundrich; Chris Nanco (Tonny Temple**83’),, Adam Najem*, Santi Moar (Mike Catalano 86’); Fabian Herbers*. Unused Substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Prosper Chiluya, Ben Ofeimu**. *Union player ** Academy player.

CI: Brandon Miller; Samuel Vines, Henry Kalungi, Bilal Duckett, Je-Vaughn Watson: Jake Areman; Greg Jordan (Cordell Cato 62’), Mutaya Mwape (Alex Martinez 46’), Ricardo Perez (Yann Ekra 69’), Eamon Zayed; Jorge Herrera. Unused Substitutes: Ben Beaury; Kay Voser, Daniel Steedman.

Goals:

BS:     10th minute     Chris Nanco (Drew Skundrich)
BS:     46th minute     Santi Moar (Fabian Herbers)
BS:     72nd minute     Drew Skundrich (Fabian Herbers)
BS:     80th minute     Fabian Herbers (Santi Moar)
CI:     90 + 4th min     Jorge Herrera (Eamon Zayed)

Cards:

CI:     11th minute      yellow    Henry Kalungi (foul)
CI:     69th minute     yellow     Je-Vaughn Watson (foul)
CI:     83rd minute     yellow     Jake Areman (dissent)
BS:     90 + 3rd min    yellow    Olivier Mbaizo (foul)

Officials:     Ref: Matt Franz     AR1: Craig Lowry     AR2: Tyler Wyrostek     4TH: Mark Treilman

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