USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 1-1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Photo: Courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC

Bethlehem Steel fought back after an early Pittsburgh penalty kick Sunday afternoon at Goodman stadium to earn a 1-1 tie.

James Chambers equalized for Bethlehem in the 67th minute, while Maurice Edu started at defensive midfield and played 60 minutes.

The draw mathematically eliminated the Steel from playoff contention.

Bethlehem played beautifully for most of the first 20 minutes. Pittsburgh’s defense was rendered static at times as they struggled to track the Steel’s quick ball movement. The integration of MLS players into the Steel’s lineup proved a clear, positive advantage, which it hasn’t always been this season. The team practiced together both Friday and Saturday, and it appeared to show.

Pittsburgh did not put a shot on goal from open play until the 21st minute.

However, they did get a correct penalty call in eighth minute, and Lehigh Valley native Corey Hertzog buried the spot kick to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

In comparison, 10 of the game’s first 12 noteworthy events were Steel attacks on the Pittsburgh goal.

In the 19th minute, a Corey Burke goal was called back for offside by when assistant referee Daniel Pannullo raised his flag well after the goal was scored.

After the disappointment of the disallowed goal, the overtly MLS pace at which the Steel had been playing slowed. In the 27th minute Restrepo began exhibiting a groin problem. He gamely kept going for 13 more minutes, but the Steel whirlwind was less dominant without blazing speed on both flanks. Josh Heard is tough and effective, but simply does not have the same jets.

By the 40th minute, it was clear that Edu was quite tired, and Derrick Jones began to cover for the captain. The coordination and cooperation between Jones and Edu was successful in Bethlehem’s offensive creativity.

Pittsburgh’s only other serious first half scoring threat came on a stoppage time corner kick. Sergio Campbell redirected a driven near post service to the far post, and Matt Jones was Blake-like in throwing out an arm to deflect it high and wide. It was his only save of the half.

In the second half, Pittsburgh displayed better energy and defensive understanding as the game played out at something resembling a USL pace. The Steel continued to attack, but their resilience in recovery regressed, and the game became a back and forth affair.

Soon, Bethlehem instituted the intriguing tactical shift of Chambers dropping deeper centrally and Edu and Jones flowing into the outside channels to create offensive overloads.

In the 52nd minute, a furious post-corner-kick flurry in front of goal saw shots by Erik Ayuk and Nick Bibbs blocked by Riverhounds defenders. Zach Steffen, the Downingtown native on loan to Pittsburgh from Columbus Crew, had failed to collect and the net was open, but the Steel couldn’t capitalize.

In the 60th minute, each team introduced subs. Bolu Akinyode replaced Edu for the home side, and Nick Thompson replaced Chevaughn Walsh, formerly of Ocean City Nor’easters, for Pittsburgh. Trusty and Bibbs had rendered Walsh harmless.

Meanwhile, the game had become stretched. Often the Pittsburgh midfield line was alone in the center of the field, with all Steel midfielders having pushed forward into the attack.

In the 68th minute, that offensive aggression paid off for Bethlehem when Heard found Corey Burke in the left side of the Pittsburgh penalty area. As he did several times Sunday, Burke overhit his defense-opening pass to Chambers. The creativity of Chambers’ response should make highlight reels. We have all heard of “diving headers.” Chambers committed a “diving chest,” scoring an equalizer that neither feet nor head would have reached.

Two minutes later, Bethlehem head coach Brendan Burke took advantage of the luxury of the group having practiced together and threw caution to the wind, introducing Seku Conneh for Nick Bibbs, who had been clobbered badly in a contact deemed legal by referee Jorge Rodriguez a few minutes earlier, and the formation changed in the emergency fashion of the first team. Trusty because the sole center back between Richter and Washington with Conneh joining Burke at striker in a 3-5-2.

The back line and the goalkeeper became heroic. In the 75th, Ryan Richter saved a chip on goal out of the air while running back toward the empty net. In the 79th, Matt Jones’ right hand stoned Reading, Pa. native Corey Hertzog 1 v 1 after a breakaway. In the 89th, Jones did it again with a foot. In the second minute of stoppage time, Trusty blocked a shot on the open net with his torso. And in the fourth minute of stoppage time, 1-v-4 after a “last play of the game” corner kick and a subsequent 90-yard recovery sprint, Matt Jones somehow managed to deflect a Pittsburgh shot. It was the save of the game.

The Steel corner kick had seen Burke chip his shot over the bar on a good feed from Heard in the 93rd.

Three points
  1. McKenzie dresses: It was nice to see Mark McKenzie recovered enough from a longish-term injury sustained with the Academy U-18s to dress for the Steel.
  2. James Chambers has guts: James Chambers does not know the meaning of the word “quit.” The man is relentless and clearly does not understand the lack of the same drive in others. That’s a compliment on a soccer pitch.
  3. Edu’s engine: Rebuilding Edu’s engine to full MLS 90 will be a long process. In “MLS gear,” the engine was excellent for 25 first half minutes. Then he started to run out of steam. His health looks good, and he made few errors. The quality of his passes looked almost perfect. He looks like he might be ready to get some limited time with the Union.

Bethlehem Steel
Matt Jones; Ryan Richter, Nick Bibbs (Seku Conneh 72’), Auston Trusty, Taylor Washington; Maurice Edu© (Bolu Akinyode 60’), Derrick Jones (Justin McMaster 86’), James Chambers; Walter Restrepo (Josh Heard 42’), Eric Ayuk (Cole Missimo 72’), Cory Burke
Substitutes not used: Matt Perrella, Mark McKenzie

Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Zach Steffon; Marshall Hollingsworth, Willie Hunt, Sergio Campbell, Michael Green (Zak Boggs 72’); Lebo Moloto (Jordan Murrell 88’), Stephen Okai (Alejandro Aguilar 72’), Kevin Kerr, Drew Russell (Jack Thompson 72’); Corey Hertzog, Chevaughn Walsh (Nick Thompson 60’)
Substitutes not used: Hunter Gilstrap, Nick Kolarac

Scoring Summary
PGH – 8’ Corey Hertzog (PK)
BST – 67’ James Chambers (Corey Burke)

Match stats (BST / PIT)
Shots: 11 / 10
Shots On Goal: 7 / 5
Corners: 8 / 7
Saves: 4 / 6

Match Officials
Jorge Ramirez, Daniel Pannullo (Assistant), Amber O’Connor (Assistant), Yanci De La O (Fourth)

14 Comments

  1. Will be interesting to see if the team feels it’s wiser to put Edu in the 18 next week or to give him another chance to go 90 with Steel.
    .
    From all accounts, sounds like we have at the very least have a solid bench option to help close out games.

    • Coach Burke’s postgame comments about respecting the integrity of the league and the playoff process but within the context of player development, as many as three academy boys may start, Fontana, McMaster and McKenzie. Edu might, but it seems unlikely to me.

      • Just as well I suppose. Toronto will sadly most likely be a low pressure opportunity for Mo to get minutes after Gio and Jozy get done destroying what’s left of Tribbett’s confidence as a soccer player again.

  2. Steffen…….from Freiberg to the Riverhounds. What the hell happened?

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        14 appearances in one full season. Leaves at the end of training camp for the next season. der Fussballzuschauer, in discussing the Union’s recent signing of Kevin Kratz, indicated that something over 100 games played in the Bundesliga 2 meant about three full seasons, making the number of games per season in the mid 30s.
        .
        Sounds like playing time to me. For a young goalkeeper game experience is paramount. That would likely be why Columbus would farm him out, rather than gather aluminum splinters in his butt by the Olentangy River in Ohio.
        .

      • I understand the loan out to Pittsburgh, OSC……like you said, so he’s not sitting. Last I heard he was Freiberg’s #3 keeper, playing in the reserves. I just wonder now if he was better of staying with Freiberg….or never leaving Maryland in the first place! He’ll he could have done all 4 at U of M and still played with Pittsburgh or Columbus! Things that make you go hmmm……..

      • der Fussballzuschauer says:

        @ Alicat – I’m not quite sure SC Freiburg wanted Steffen back for another season … Steffen never even got close to appearing in a 2.Bundesliga game for the SC Freiburg first team squad in his eighteen months at the German club … The third string goalkeeper listed for SC Freiburg last season was Konstantin Fuhry although he made no appearances in the 2.Bundesliga last season … Steffen played 14 games for SC Freiburg II in the fourth division Regionalliga Suedwest last season after making no appearances at all during the second half of the 2014/15 campaign … Fuhry made 11 appearances for SC Freiburg II last season … Fuhry, Steffen as well as the third goalkeeper who saw action for SC Freiburg II last season are all with new clubs this season … http://www.fussballdaten.de/spieler/steffenzack/2016/

      • Danke…….so I guess I read it wrong, it was a while back, he was third keeper for the reserves……I wonder what they thought was lacking in his game? Kid looked pretty sharp when I saw him at 18……

      • der Fussballzuschauer says:

        @ Alicat – My first question with respect to what went down during Steffen’s time with SC Freiburg II would be something like, “Did he learn German well enough to be able to do things like organize and direct his defense?” … My second question would probably be along the lines of “Was he ‘settled’ living in Germany in general?”

      • der Fussballzuschauer says:

        @ OSC – A 2.Bundesliga season consists of 34 games with the 18 teams in the league playing every other team in the league once home and once away

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Danke!

    • Phew…. I think I just got dizzy.

  3. Jones was a boss. great saves to keep the team in it till the end.

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