USL Match report

Match report: Toronto FC II 3-2 Bethlehem Steel

Photo: Courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC

Despite a determined, sustained effort, Bethlehem Steel FC could not overcome giving up a goal within the first 85 seconds, losing to Toronto FC II 3-2 at the Ontario Soccer Center on Wednesday.

The Steel’s 15th different lineup in 16 games saw two familiar faces playing unfamiliar positions on a turf surface saturated with rubber particles to the point that passes played as though delivered on a high grass pitch.

The game-winner illustrated the phrase “them’s the breaks,” as the Steel wall blocked a free kick decisively only to have it fall directly to the foot of Toronto’s Liam Fraser, who drove it through the shattering barrier into the net to make the score 3-1 in the 63rd minute. Josh Heard scored for Bethlehem three minutes later, but it wasn’t enough.

First half

The Steel remained in their 4-2-3-1 shape, but the faces in the left channel were different. Auston Trusty started at left back, and Taylor Washington was at left midfield. Philadelphia Union defender Anderson started again at left center back, as he had against Cincinnati last Saturday. Additionally, Union Academy player Anthony Fontana earned his first start for the Steel.

Bethlehem paid for the changes almost immediately. Toronto’s first foray down the right channel against those players saw Sal Bernal surrounded by three white shirts, only to shove the ball centrally to Luca Uccello, who made a shielded pivot away from his strong foot to his left and shot past Ryan Richter and Samir Badr into the net for a lead the home side would never relinquish.

Insult was added to injury in the 13th minute when 16-year-old striker Shaaun Hundal collected a pass out of his defense on the left channel and delivered a diagonal to the center across midfield to Bubaccar Jobe, who easily outpaced Anderson to the ball. Deftly sidestepped the onrushing Badr, Jobe rolled home an undefended shot from outside the box for a 2-0 Toronto lead.

The Steel had begun to control the midfield and possess the ball in the Toronto half, but with a two-goal lead, TFC II played nine men deployed in two lines inside the 30, stifling visitor attacks and looking to hit on the counter.

The pattern continued until Union Academy U-16 player Anthony Fontana showed his ability to create space when marked 1 v 1, drawing a foul on the left side of the D outside Toronto’s box. Richter addressed the free kick and took the team lead in scoring with a picture perfect strike up over the wall and down into the goal past the helpless Phil Di Bennardo, who was properly guarding the other post.

At the end of the half, Toronto had two goals on three shots, and the Steel had one on seven.

Second half

A deliberate handball by Anderson in the 62nd minute gave Toronto the free kick that resulted in their third goal.

Less than three minutes later, Hundal beat Anderson for pace on a direct service down the center and stayed on his feet in spite of two desperate attempts to grab his shirt from behind. Anderson then slid to tap the ball away, but if Hundal had been more cynical and gone down at either tug, the Brazilian would have been red-carded as the last man back on a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Brendan Burke substituted Fred for Anderson in the 67th minute, along with Jamie Luchini for Fontana. The switches restored Trusty to left center back and Washington to left back, with Fred replacing Fontana at the No. 10 and Luchini moving to the left flank mid. The restored, familiar back line gave away no more potential disasters until Desperate Measures Time during stoppage on the last plays of the match.

Meanwhile, Toronto FC had left James Chambers unpressured as a distributing No. 6, and the Irishman had been orchestrating Steel attacks that resulted in multiple corners and free kicks throughout the game. In the aftermath of one of those corner kicks in the 66th minute, Chambers served a lovely low cross into the six-yard-box from the left that found Heard running onto the near post from the far right for a goal. That strike ended the scoring, but not the attempts to do so.

Bethlehem’s Raheem Taylor-Parkes came on for Derrick Jones in the 70th minute and began to attack 1-v-1 down the right flank channel, beating his man and winning free kicks but also exposing his own defensive shortcomings against Toronto left back Anthony Osorio’s forays into the attack. Taylor-Parkes took Osorio down from behind in the left corner, earning the first yellow card of the match in the 82nd minute.

Nick Bibbs had come on for Heard in the 85th minute, moving Richter to a second striker role, and the Steel began to gamble heavily in order to try to tie the score. They won four straight corner kicks with these desperate measures and an offside call back as well, in addition to a few misses from the run of play.

A last TFC II goalscoring attempt in the 94th minute was saved off the line by Bibbs just before the referee whistled the end of the game.

Bethlehem’s five-game road series ends with one win, two losses, and two draws for five points. Six consecutive games at home begin Sunday, July 10 against Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 4 pm.

Three observations
  • Two games in five days including over 2,100 miles sitting in a luxury coach for about 32 hours total, when the Academy teams are involved in their own tournaments and the first team is hit by injuries, present a clear and meaningful challenge to a core roster of fourteen players. Full marks for courage, determination, improvisation and intestinal fortitude.
  • James Chambers gave a clinic on effective distribution by a No. 6 for an hour until Toronto decided they needed to impede him.
  • Steel right back and captain Ryan Richter leads the team in scoring. (Never mind that he was a striker at La Salle.)

Bethlehem Steel FC
Samir Badr; Ryan Richter ©, Mickey Daly, Anderson Conceicao (67’ Jamie Luchini), Auston Trusty; James Chambers, Derrick Jones (70’ Raheem Taylor-Parkes), Anthony Fontana (67’ Fred), Joshua Heard (85’ Nick Bibbs), Taylor Washington; Cory Burke (19’ Gabriel Gissie)
Substitutes not used: CJ Dos Santos, Amoy Brown

Toronto FC II
Phil Di Bennardo; Wesley Charpie, Mitch Taintor, Skylar Thomas ©, Anthony Osorio; Liam Fraser, Aidan Daniels (61’ Brian James), Luca Uccello (87’ Chris Mannella); Salvador Bernal, Shaan Hundal (69’ Ayo Akinola), Bubacarr Jobe
Substitutes not used: Angelo Cavalluzzo, Leonard Sohn

Match Stats (BST / TOR)
Shots: 11 / 10
Shots On Goal: 6 / 6
Corners: 8 / 4
Saves: 3 / 4

Scoring Summary
TOR: Luca Uccello (Salvador Bernal) — 2
TOR: Bubacarr Jobe (Shaan Hundal) — 13
BST: Ryan Richter — 39
TOR: Liam Fraser — 63
BST: Joshua Heard (James Chambers) — 66

Disciplinary Summary
BST: Raheem Taylor-Parkes (Y) — 82
TOR: Bubacarr Jobe (Y) — 90

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