USL Match report

Match report: Atlanta II 2 – 1 Bethlehem Steel FC

Feature Photo: Courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC

Bethlehem Steel visited Atlanta United 2’s Proving Ground at Coolray Field in Gwinnet Georgia and lost to their fellow MLS 2 side 2-1 Wednesday night.

The game changed significantly in the 21stminute when Santi Moar could not continue after receiving an extremely bad studs up sliding foul on his right ankle from Miles Robinson, the Atlanta first-team reserve defender. Moar’s game sock was ripped halfway across its front at the ankle by the studs.

The match would have been a challenge for the Steel in any case given the influence of the schedule on Bethlehem’s squad makeup.  They travelled one short with 17 rather than 18 players, and the bench had no truly creative offensive options capable of playing 70 minutes. Drew Skundrich did his best coming on for Moar.

Furthermore, in the first half, Atlanta’s own disjointedness help disorganize the Steel, who played more as a collection of individuals and small groups than as a coordinated team.

In the last 25 minutes Bethlehem began to look more like a soccer team. Aidan Apodaca, returning after a five-game absence from injury, came on in the 58thminute for Tonny Temple who had started at striker.

Especially when normal left back Prosper Chiluya came on for Chris Nanco at left flank midfielder in the 70th– Steel head coach Brendan Burke was improvising – Bethlehem began to resemble a coherent organized single entity again. But Atlanta’s midfield was dropping deep to defend, leaving the middle third of the pitch much more open for the Steel to use, and while Derrick Jones made it interesting in the 87th with a gorgeous left footed blast to halve the Stripes lead, a miracle did not happen.

Each side had an excellent chance to score early.  In the fourth minute Atlanta winger Jon Gallagher forced Jake McGuire to make an excellent parry on a blast from McGuire’s right that was on frame. A minute later, Santi Moar dribbled horizontally all the way across from the left touch line to the right side of the penalty box, worked a give and go with Temple and rang a strike hard off the left post.

The game was physical and sloppy in the early going, both physically and mentally. In the 25thminute Matt Real assumed there was no threat behind him as he moved to collect a long Atlanta diagonal from the opposite channel, but Brandon Vasquez beat him to the ball and scored fairly easily past McGuire for the lead.

Atlanta’s second goal came in the 50th minute and was not so much a Steel error as an unstoppable cannon shot from distance by Atlanta midfield Oliver Shannon’s  left foot from well outside the penalty box on the right.

Atlanta clearly wanted the win badly. If the roster on the official Atlanta United Website is accurate, 11 first-teamers dressed and nine of them started.  Since they were finishing a stretch of seven out of eight games away, and were about to start another – they next play at home in very late August – going all out to win is understandable.

The result leaves Bethlehem in 10th place on 23 points in the east, still within three points of the playoff line, but the middle of the playoff pack has moved a bit further  away. They play next at home at 5:00 PM on Saturday July 14 against North Carolina FC who will undoubtedly remember that Steel’s come from behind win down in Carolina.

Three Points:

One comparison: While in basic concept and structure Atlanta 2 imitates New York Red Bulls 2 and Bethlehem, i. e., following the same template throughout the organization, in two details the junior five stripes differ from the Steel. First-team players may sit the bench, and more older players start for the Georgians.

Only twice in 75 games has a first-teamer begun a game on the Steel’s bench. And only one player was older than 24 at the beginning of this season, while Atlanta 2 seems to have five on its USL roster.

Two first-teamers: Olivier Mbaizo clearly loves to attack.  He needs to learn to love defending as much.  Jon Gallagher is a dangerous fast winger.  The Cameroonian did not have a shutdown game against the former Notre Dame national champion, especially early.  His play illustrates that the best defense is possessing th ball and using it to attack.

Derrick Jones’s game picked up in urgency and effectiveness as the match moved forward.  At first he was playing at a pace worthy of a first team practice not a USL game and Atlanta’s swarming midfield kept him entangled with the ball.  By the end of the game he posed a significant challenge to the Atlanta defense.  His goal was pure determination overcoming all obstacles.

Three improvisations: Academy winger Tonny Temple started at striker for the Steel.  As coach Burke said on Monday it is a different role for him.

That is improvisation number one because Fabian Herbers was suspended for yellow cards.  Apodaca was not 90-minutes match fit. Brandon Allen is in Nashville. Jeremy Rafanello is already at Penn State.  And the Union are playing in Chicago an hour and a half after the Steel’s tap.

While no one on the Steel can replace Santi Moar, Drew Skundrich does not have the individual creativity to play flank midfielder well.  It is too bad Mike Catalano did not travel, since he played on the outside all last season for the University of Wisconsin.  Probably Catalano stayed home to be fresh for Saturday when the Steel and the Union once again play more or less simultaneously, each in the middle game of three in eight days.

The final improvisation of the day turned out the best. Full marks to coach Burke for having a coach’s intuition that it might work.  Prosper Chiluya at left flank midfielder brought an energy and an urgency that lifted his squad.  These were the first minutes he has not played at left back for the Steel.

Lineups:

Bethlehem

Jake McGuire*; Olivier Mbaizo*, Matt Mahoney, Brandon Aubrey, Matt Real*; James Chambers ©, Derrick Jones*; Chris Nanco (Prosper Chiluya 70’), Adam Najem*, Santi Moar (Drew Skundrich 21’); Tonny Temple** (Aidan Apodaca 58’). Unused substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Ben Ofeimu**, A. J. Paterson. *first-team player ** (5) academy player (3)

Suspended: Fabian Herbers (yellow card accumulation).

Atlanta

Alec Kann*; Sal Zizzo*, Miles Robinson*, A. J. Cochran, Jack Metcalf © (Will Crain** 61’); Oliver Shannon*, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu*; Brandon Vasquez* (Lagos Kunga* 70’), Andrew Carleton*, Jon Gallagher*; Romario Williams*( Yosef Samuel 81’). Unused substitutes: Nicholas Caraux; Jose Hernandez, Chris Goslin*, Devin Sandoval.

* first-team player (11 total, 9 Started) ** academy player (1)

Scoring

Atlanta            25thminute                 Brandon Vasquez

Atlanta            50thminute                 Oliver Shannon (A. J. Cochran)

Bethlehem      81stminute                 Derrick Jones (Aidan Apodaca)

Discipline

Atlanta            18thminute                 Yellow             Miles Robinson (foul)

Bethlehem      43rdminute                 Yellow             Brandon Aubrey (tactical foul)

 

Officials           Ref: Sergii Demianchuk           Ar1: Kyle Johnston      Ar2: Khadime Sabara  4TH: James Mckean

One Comment

  1. WeAreSteel2K18 says:

    Bad, bad loss. I know a home playoff game was as likely as me getting signed by the Union, but there was some hope. That’s probably gone now. I hate that it’s now a battle for one of the last playoffs spots. This team is better than that. Plus we should be developing more chemistry now that the lineup is more or less the same every week. Certainly more consistent then ’16 or ’17.
    ——
    The constant crossing from the wings is not working. Not only does it fail to produce goals, but more times than not there isn’t even anybody in the box when the cross comes in. This team plays at its best when they keep the ball on the ground and work through the middle.
    ——
    We need to come out strong on Saturday. Right from the start. Play with some energy.

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