USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 2-2 Charlotte Independence

The Steel battled to a 2-2 draw Sunday against a more clinical Charlotte Independence at Goodman Stadium.

Bethlehem led early thanks to a Seku Conneh goal, but Charlotte answered with two goals before an 88th minute penalty kick by Bethlehem’s Ryan Richter evened the final score. Charlotte outshot Bethlehem 20-9 on the day, including 11-2 in shots on goal. Fortunately for Bethlehem, both of their shots on goal resulted in goals.

The first half started brightly for the Steel, with them controlling the ball and therefore the tempo. Richter showed his fitness with excellent deep runs on the right flank, and the Steel were soon rewarded after Richter’s cross was put away by striker Seku Conneh.

The Independence were flustered through most of the first half, but a mistake from Bethlehem center back Auston Trusty allowed them a potentially dangerous free kick that was blazed over the bar.

The Steel started the second half in horrible fashion, as the reinvigorated Independence continued their high pressing game plan and equalized within 30 seconds of the whistle. The ball was played back to Trusty, but the Union Academy product took too long on the ball and was caught out by Enzo Martinez, who calmly ran through on goal and slotted past Bethlehem goalkeeper John McCarthy.

The Independence continued their bright, energetic play and constantly created chances and threatened the goal. Their passing was sharp and quick, and the Steel seemed shell-shocked and sluggish.

Taylor Washington continued Bethlehem’s poor second half with a yellow card in the 54th minute and gave Charlotte a free kick from about 30 yards out. The ensuing strike was a low, dipping effort that McCarthy did well to parry away, but the Steel failed to clear the ball up the field. This passage of play was emblematic of much of the second half as they failed to do the simple things in defense and allowed Charlotte to have their way.

The second goal was another mistake from the teenager Trusty, who lost his mark, and an optimistic low cross came bouncing the way of Charlotte’s Jon Marques Davidson, who tapped it in from point blank range.

The Steel’s attacking play was channeled mostly through Richter on the right hand side, and his drive and determination provided a few good opportunities, just like the first half. On the whole, Bethlehem’s attacking display was much better than the defensive play, but the Steel still failed to capitalize and take the three points.

Late into the game, a long ball from Richter to Corey Burke led to a collision with Charlotte goalkeeper John Berner, and a penalty was called. Richter smashed home the equalizer and rescued a point for the Steel, scoring his team-leading fifth goal of the season and recording an assist to bring his tally up to three.

Three points

High press bothers Steel: Much like New York Red Bulls II, the Independence pressed the Steel high. This clearly bothered them, especially in the second half, as they failed to do the simple things in defense and this lackluster play cost them the win. This late in the season, it could be a bit of fatigue, but Brendan Burke needs to adjust his tactics and motivate his boys to get over tough spells and stay in games.

Youth is great, but inexperience costs them: The youth set-up with the Steel has generally been exceptional, as teenagers from the Union Academy have been able to get some professional experience with the USL side, notably Trusty and Anthony Fontana. This shows long-term ambition, and Trusty in particular has impressed by winning so much playing time. The inexperience cost the Steel three points Sunday, however, and it’s not the first time. The teenagers, especially in defense, have struggled with the pace, but the depth of the side is clearly not good enough to support a roster rotation.

Ayuk brings pace, attack: The speedy winger Eric Ayuk brought pace in spades to the right flank. His movement in transition play was instrumental in a few chances and his qualities bring a much needed dimension to the Steel’s game. Ayuk’s interchange play with Richter was also good, and the partnership shows signs of bringing goals in the future.

Match Statistics

Shots: 20-9 (Charlotte)
Shots On Goal: 11-2 (Charlotte)
Corners: 9-5 (Bethlehem)
Saves: 9-0 (Bethlehem)
Fouls: 13-11 (Charlotte)

Scoring Summary
BST – 22’ Seku Conneh
CLT – 46’ Enzo Martinez
CLT – 62’ Jon Marques Davidson
BST – 88’ Ryan Richter (PK)

Discipline Summary
BST – 25’ – James Chambers (Yellow Card)
CLT – 32’ – Jack Metcalf (Yellow Card)
BST – 35’ – Auston Trusty (Yellow Card)
CLT – 44’ – Patrick Slogic (Yellow Card)
CLT – 87’ – John Bernen (Yellow Card)

Bethlehem Steel lineup

John McCarthy; Ryan Richter (C), Josh Yaro, Auston Trusty, Taylor Washington; Boluwatife Akinyode (Josh Heard 69’), James Chambers, Derrick Jones (Anthony Fontana 82’); Eric Ayuk, Leo Fernandes, Seku Conneh (Cory Burke 66’)

Substitutes not used: Samir Badr, Nick Bibbs, Gabe Gissie, Amoy Brown

Charlotte Independence lineup

John Berner; Bilal Duckett ©, Patrick Slogic, Joel Johnson, Henry Kalunge; Jun Marques Davidson, Lewis Hilton (Paul Clowes 78), Enzo Martinez (Aly Hassan 90’), David Estrada (Zach Pfeffer 82’); Caleb Calvert (Jorge Herrera 82’), Brian Brown (Alex Martinez 78’)
Substitutes not used: Cory Mizell, Jack Metcalf


  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Saw the game live so what follows has no benefit of replay.
    For actual reasons uncertain, although the public statements will avow first-teasers needing game minutes and stop there, there was quite a strong presence from the first team. John McCarthy should get a special honorary bus cushion seat as should Josh Yaro and Leo Fernandes, riding home from DC Saturday night and riding to Bethlehem sometime Sunday morning.
    The organization anticipated the need this week and made the effort to avoid game day roster anorexia. We known from the rules summary in the USL media guide that there is paperwork with deadlines to activate players from inactive status. Clearly this week they planned ahead and met the deadlines. Such issues would logically explain why Ayuk was not available last week, when honorary bus cushions were less necessary.
    Sunday afternoon is the first time I remember the Saturday first team backup keeper starting the Steel game. From observed public behavior, the organization is operating with only three goalkeepers. The absence of the fourth is both obvious and unexplained. There has been no indirect suggestion of any need to respect privacy. Has the loaning club recalled him? Is he in legal difficulties? The complete absence of any information suggests the club is hoping attention is being diverted by shiny new roster baubles purchased last week, a strategy that works on the gullible.
    Philly sports fans have been called many things, but gullible is not one of them. To quote from the castle scenes in the 3rd Indiana Jones movie, in translation, “Where is Jones?”
    Is it fair to conclude that playing with 18 year olds did not maintain Auston Trusty’s sharpness to be competitive with adult male professionals? Enzo Martinez surprised him, cleaned him and scored. Later on he cleaned him in exactly the same fashion again but did not score.
    Seku Conneh needs to build his engine. He did well for the first half hour.
    The general steel energy pattern looked like a group of reserves nit 90 minutes game fit running out of gas in the second half.
    Reserving Corey Burke to create late game offensive pressure through his ability to fight off the center back tall trees was an approach that paid dividends. Richter’s long service that created the penalty kick and Berner’s yellow card was almost inch perfect. The technical staff deserves credit for the general approach.
    Why did James Chambers not return to the attacking center midfield role? When Akinyode subbed off for josh Heard to join the attack, Chambers lack of pace exposed the back line at times.
    A good side research project would be to discover when was the last time the Steele finished a game without either Derrick Jones or Bolu Akinyode on the pitch at the end of it. Both of them off has been unusual, if ever.

  2. der Fussballzuschauer says:

    Sadly for sports fans here in the Lehigh Valley, the United Soccer League is just not what the American Hockey League is to the National Hockey League or AAA baseball is to the Major Leagues — and it’s not even close, to be quite frank.

    The first goal that the alleged United States junior national team player Trusty gave away was just plain ridiculous and anything but professional-level technical skill (even judging by lowered standards). Enough with the lame and tiring excuses already. The on-field USL product is quite simply just not good enough and endless amounts of easily-recognizable spin or propaganda is not really going to fool knowledgeable people.

    PS – Check out what Bayern Munich II typically draw to their matches sometime … this is where the USL is going with its reserve team stuff.

    • MLS doesn’t compare to the NHL though so it’s totally unfair. At this point you need to look at baseball. On the global level MLS is like AA ball (being generous probably) and USL is like low A ball. If you have ever seen these levels I think you’d agree.

      • der Fussballzuschauer says:

        My analogy was definitely a flawed one in that the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball are the two strongest circuits in the world with respect to the two different sports in question whereas Major League Soccer is certainly not the toughest league on the planet for their particular athletic endeavor, no doubt. That IS the point I was trying to make, however, that the USL is not right below MLS in terms of quality the same way that the AHL or AAA is right below the NHL or MLB. I am unfamiliar with the three different levels of A ball so it is hard for me to assess whether or not the gap between AA and A- is what the gap between MLS and the USL actually is … I like your assessment of MLS to AA, myself, although I bet it won’t win you many friends or help you influence many people – at least not here in the United States and Canada … 🙂

  3. Wake Forest starts practice on Wednesday. Kind of odd that Trusty played.

    • der Fussballzuschauer says:

      DeZart is the Philadelphia Union Academy player who signed a letter of intent and is supposedly going to Wake Forest University. Trusty is apparently going to play collegiate soccer for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has already been assigned the # 2 jersey, this according to the Tar Heels men’s team roster on display at the school’s official athletic website …

      • Yea I was thinking McKenzie and Real who are both committed to Wake in ’17. And creeping his instagram he was at freshman orientation 2 weeks ago so any thought that they were making a last minute push seems is wimsy.

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