USL - Philadelphia Union II

Lessons from the Steel’s loss to Orlando

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC

Five thoughts on Bethlehem Steel FC after their 2-0 loss to Orlando City B on Sunday.

A tactical principle

A team needs more offensive distributors among its back five defenders – the four backs plus the defensive midfielder – than the opposing offense has strikers. Orlando played a 4-4-2 and, in the second half, assigned its two strikers to high press the Steel’s outside backs. Service to the Steel attackers was smothered. Neither the center backs nor the defensive center mid could provide the long-distance offensive distribution that had been so successful from the flank backs in the  first half.

A particular Irish captain’s absence was also obvious.

A solid USL performance

Adam Najem is a competent USL two-way center midfielder. That in itself is a compliment, as the quality of the best USL players seems to be taking some newly arrived Europeans by surprise.

But that compliment is not sufficient. Najem’s excellent positional discipline allows the center attacking midfielder in front of him to rampage at will in the offensive half, risking high energy challenges that could produce the sublime reward of a goal or conversely an opposition thrust forward. Najem stays home so that Cory Burke’s speed, strength and tackling may raise holy hell.

That Orlando could not break out in the second portion of the first half like they did in the first 20 minutes is due to Najem’s positional discipline along with that of his teammates.

Already earning respect

The Orlando organization’s technical staff paid the 2017 Bethlehem Steel’s game-day performances a high compliment. In the nine days between April 14 and April 23, the Central Florida Lion Cubs played three times away in the northeast — at the Red Bulls 2, Harrisburg and the Steel.

They brought the strongest of their three lineups to Bethlehem. They even had a reserve center back from Orlando’s MLS side on the bench in case they needed him. And they did after noticing the effects of Cory Burke and Seku Conneh at the tip of the Steel’s spear.

Growth finds its own pace

Auston Trusty is growing as a center back and making mistakes doing so. It is important for fans to remember the educational principle articulated by Philadelphia Union management that it is okay to fail at first. How else does a 12-month-old learn to walk?

Trusty has drive and ambition, and he will learn from his errors. He has not yet stopped making them.

While my 67-year-old ears are no longer what they once were, Trusty did not seem verbally subordinate to his veteran center back partner the way he did last season. When his head coach went to three in the back in the game’s last 15 minutes, Trusty played in the center. He is being given good chances to take major responsibilities.

The farm’s flank backs

Orlando played two strong wide midfielders that tested the Steel’s outside backs. Aaron Jones seemed evenly matched with Pierre Da Silva before being substituted.

Gili Wijnaldum’s performance against Austin Martz was uneven. The veteran high-quality USL midfielder let his Dutch marker get the better of him for the most part in the first half, but not so in the second. The first Orlando goal began with Martz faking Wijnaldum badly enough to injure the defender’s ankle momentarily, opening the way for a run to the endline and a lay back to an unmarked striker for a tap in. Martz can accelerate like a 427 Corvette from a  stoplight. (He’s doing so in the lower left corner of the accompanying photo.) It often surprised Wijnaldum in the second half.

Both Jones and Wijnaldum are effective offensive players for their positions. While combination play with their flank midfielders does not have the same emphasis it did last season, they do combine effectively when called upon, and their services into the box are precise.

Ray Gaddis showed well enough in his start against Montreal that both may stay in Bethlehem to grow through game minutes there.

One Comment

  1. WeAreSteel 2K17 says:

    Nice write-up. Hope we can get a good crowd Saturday for Cincinnati. Their fans were quite annoying a few weeks ago bashing our team, stadium, town, weather, fans, everything. They kept going on and on about how they were going to get “25,000” for their home opener and how great they are compared to BSFC. Of course we then beat them 2-0 😉

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