USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 1-1 Rochester Rhinos

Bethlehem Steel FC secured a point against defending USL champs Rochester Rhinos with a 1-1 draw on a hot Sunday afternoon.

In the first half, a strong Steel game plan, an adjusted lineup, and excellent preparation exploited the major weakness of the Rhinos’ 4-4-2 shape to give Bethlehem the lead. Bethlehem midfielder Derrick Jones intercepted a poor square ball from right flank midfielder Ryan James to center back Wall Fry in the Rochester defensive third, attacked two defenders on the dribble, and wrong-footed the goal keeper Adam Grinwis with a strike away from his forward momentum to the right post to take the lead unassisted in the 20th minute.

In the second half, a veteran team led by Rochester coach Bob Lilly changed their shape to impede Bethlehem head coach Brendan Burke’s plan and unshackle their midfield field general, Jamaican Kenardo Forbes, who scored the equalizer in the 57th minute. Rochester forward Steevan dos Santos was allowed to flatten Taylor Washington with a shoulder charge near the end line and then struck a shot that Bethlehem’s Nick Bibbs deflected away from goal across the box. Forbes was positioned perfectly to bury the rebound.

The Steel plan in the first half was to attack the space in front of the Rochester center backs. Seku Conneh consistently checked back for the ball into that space to combine with his central midfielders, and this generated several threats, leading to Steel outshooting Rochester 6-1 in the first half. Derrick Jones and James Chambers traded central midfield roles, with Jones moving to No. 10 and Chambers to No. 8, to give Chambers greater control of distribution generally, and to allow Jones to use his athleticism to combine with Conneh through the center. The central pressure forced field general Forbes to play as a shield in front of Fry and Vasileios Apostolopoulos, effectively removing his creativity from the Rochester attack.

At halftime, Lilly moved to blunt the Steel attack and free Forbes. He went to a 3-5-2, adding a center back in the middle (Joe Farrell), having his two flank midfielders (Ryan James and Bradley Kamdem) drop all the way back into the back line on defense, and playing only three midfielders in the line ahead of the backs (Mike Garzi, Forbes, and Sofiane Tergou). The extra center back protected Forbes, allowing him to attack free of his defensive responsibilities, and the Jamaican changed the game for the next fifteen minutes. He was now free to make the second run out of the midfield in support of attacks and was more than once completely unmarked.

Steel attacks became much less effective. Burke brought on striker Corey Burke in the 76th minute, shifting Conneh out wide for Cole Missimo, who went to the bench. But the forward-most central channel match up remained 1-v-3, and the surplus center backs challenged the gaps between the Steel flank midfielders and their striker. The Steel no longer could get behind the Rhinos’ center.

Rochester attempted to overwhelm the tired Bethlehem back line with fresh legs at the end of the game. But the Steel defenders made no mistakes, including judicious use of the offside rule and some heroic shot blocks.

By the end of the game, not only was Bethlehem physically exhausted, it was clear that mentally they were no longer sharp. James Chambers’ stoppage-time exhortation to retrieve restart balls rapidly had no effect. Playing Thursday and Sunday took its toll.

Three points
  • Solid game plan: Full marks are due the Steel technical staff for a precisely targeted, well prepared game plan. They forced a strong side away from their preferred method.
  • Derrick Jones’ productivity: Jones now has the team lead in goals scored (4) and total points (11), for his three assists.
  • Much-deserved break: Regeneration and rehabilitation await the team as Bethlehem does not play again until Sunday, July 31 when they host Toronto FC II, to whom the Steel lost 2-3 on the road on July 6.

Bethlehem lineup
Matt Jones; Ryan Richter (C), Nick Bibbs, Anderson Conceicao, Taylor Washington; Bolu Akinyode, James Chambers; Cole Missimo (Corey Burke 76th), Derrick Jones, Gabe Gisse (Josh Heard 67th); Seku Conneh (Jamie Luchini 85th)
Unused substitutes: Samir Badr; Anthony Fontana, Fred; Amoy Brown

Rochester lineup
Adam Grinwis; Joe Farrell, Wall Fall, Vasileios Apostolopoulos, Bradley Kamdem (Dominic Samuel 80th); Ryan James, Mike Garzi (Sean Reilly 96th), Kenardo Forbes, Sofiane Tergou (Sean Totsch 80th); Christian Volesky (Asani Samuels 80th), Steevan dos Santos (Michel Guilavogui 88th)
Unused substitutes: Tomas Gomez, Andre Fortune

Scoring summary
BSFC: Derrick Jones — 20’
ROC: Kenardo Forbes — 57’

Discipline summary
BSFC: Seku Conneh (Yellow Card) – 45’ + 4’
BSFC: Cory Burke (Yellow Card) — 79’

One Comment

  1. WeAreSteel says:

    This team is getting frustrating to watch. I’m sick of Burke’s gameplan. Just punt the ball up the field and hope somebody gets it. It seems like no more than 3 players attack even when they win the ball back in a good position. When this team has looked good it’s been by keeping the ball on the ground and letting Jones dribble or pass in the middle of the field.

    Too often it looks like Burke is content with one goal and plays it safe the rest of the way. Even if the goal comes early in the match. That leads to draws like yesterday where the other team equalizes in the 2nd half and we don’t have a plan to grab a winner.

    Chambers was very vocal yesterday. Screaming at guys to hurry up and get the ball back in play. Trying to push people forward. He wanted the 3 points. Him and Richter have been very good leaders for the younger guys.

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