USL Match report

Match report: FC Cincinnati 2-1 Bethlehem Steel FC

Bethlehem Steel were hoping lightning would strike twice in Cincinnati.

Unfortunately, it did.

FC Cincinnati defeated the Steel 2-1 at Nippert Stadium Saturday evening, with the last four minutes of stoppage time called off after a lengthy lightning delay.

The last time these sides played, Hugh Roberts’ headed goal stole three points for the Steel in extra time. This time, a different kind of strike ended the game.

In a scheduling quirk, the teams met for the final time this season after playing three times in Bethlehem’s first eight games. The Steel took the series 2-1.

Cincinnati were again without their leading scorer, Djiby Fall. The striker, who has scored six goals in as many games, is serving a six match suspension for biting an opponent against Louisville City FC.

It didn’t matter.

Danish forward Danni König netted a brace to help his side collect the victory. It was their first USL win in some time, going winless in their last five matches in the league.

Cincinnati scored the opening goal in the 18th minute. Jimmy McLaughlin, the former Philadelphia Union homegrown signee, sent a bending cross into the box with the outside of his right foot. König got inside of Ken Tribbett and sent a clinical header into the back of the net. It was his first goal of the season.

A few minutes prior, König thought he had opened his account. Corben Bone, another of Cincinnati’s former Union players, created space down the Steel’s left. Bone whipped in a cross but found Tribbett. The defender’s clearance, however, went straight up. König rose above goalkeeper Jake McGuire and headed the ball into the net. Referee Malik Badawi didn’t allow the goal to stand, ruling the striker had fouled the keeper to win the ball.

It was a deserved lead for the home side, who controlled the opening portion of the match. After falling behind, Bethlehem began to find their footing.

Somehow, the Steel failed to capitalize on three golden chances in the 20th minute. The ball found its way to Seku Conneh in the attacking third after Santi Moar did well to win the ball. Conneh slotted a pass to Chris Nanco who made a diagonal run behind the defense. One-on-one with the keeper from the center of the box, Nanco’s shot went straight at Mitch Hildebrandt. James Chambers’ shot off the rebound was cleared off the line by center back Harrison Delbridge. The ball then found its way back to Nanco who whiffed on a shot at a wide open net.

Despite the missed opportunities, the Steel found a way to level the score: luck.

An errant Bethlehem pass found its way to Cincinnati midfielder Aodhan Quinn. As Conneh pressed, Quinn slipped. From the ground, Quinn’s left arm hooked the right leg of Conneh. Badawi wasted no time pointing to the spot.

Stepping to the ball was the fouled party. As Hildebrandt committed to his left, Conneh cheekily chipped the ball to the keeper’s right. It was the forward’s fourth goal of the season.

Bethlehem would have the last chance of the first half.

Chris Nanco chased down the ball following a Cincinnati free kick in injury time. Two Ohioans compounded mistakes and allowed Nanco behind the defense. With pace, the winger raced toward the box, but a heavy touch gave Hildebrandt the opportunity to come off his line and clear the danger.

Both sides could feel positive about their play in the opening 45 minutes.

Cincinnati was coming off a midweek U.S. Open Cup victory over AFC Cleveland. The match went 120 minutes, so there was a question of whether or not fatigue would become an issue.

After the break, Cincinatti was quick to answer that question.

In the 52nd minute, König earned his brace on what proved to be the decisive goal. Cincinnati hoofed a long ball downfield rather aimlessly. Their winger, Kadeem Dacres, was able to collect and find the forward making a run into the box. Hugh Roberts did well to make a sliding block on König’s first-touch shot, but the ball sat well for the Dane. He was collected with his finish, taking an extra touch to gather the rebound before sending it past McGuire.

The goal changed the dynamic of the game, as goals tend to do.

What had been a even, back-and-forth game shifted in Cincinnati’s favor. Without the onus to score, the home side took a more defensive position. Bethlehem had success generating offense by absorbing pressure and countering through long balls to Nanco, Moar, and Cory Burke. Cincinnati challenged the Steel to create through build-up play, probing, and incisive passing. Bethlehem struggled.

The middle stages of the half followed this pattern, with the two teams trading a chance each.

Hildebrandt made a big save on a Moar floating header in the 56th minute. Matthew Real did well to send in an exceptional cross.

McGuire responded with his own big save in the 66th minute. A 2v1 Cincinnati attack culminated with McLaughlin firing on frame. McGuire did well to stick his foot out and turn the shot away.

Bethlehem generated some chances late in the contest, but were unable create the final product. Hildebrandt was a little too eager to come off his line, but the Steel couldn’t find an equalizer before lightning struck.

When it did, it ensured the Steel would return home empty handed.

Bethlehem will return home after going 1-2-0 on a three game road trip. They will face the current Eastern conference leaders, Charleston Battery, this Thursday at Goodman Stadium.

Three points
  • The Real Deal: Matthew Real made his second start of the season at left back. After an up-and-down performance in Toronto, Real played a stellar game in Cincinnati. He did well in 1v1 defending and was a threat in the final third.
  • Moar, Moar, Moar: A fourth round pick of the Union, Santi Moar was dangerous on the left flank. He created with the ball at his feet, but dribbled into trouble a few times as well. Expect his vision to blossom with more time.
  • A Spotty Return: Ken Tribbett returned to action for the first time in some time. Despite some decent play, he was beaten on the opening goal. A poor clearance could have lead to another. It was a familiar display.

Bethlehem: Jake McGuire; Matthew Mahoney, Hugh Roberts, Ken Tribbett, Matthew Real; James Chambers, Christopher Wingate (Josh Heard 58′); Cory Burke, Chris Nanco (Yosef Samuel 67′), Santi Moar; Seku Conneh (Amoy Brown 82′)
Unused Subs: Matt Freese, Charlie Reymann

Cincinnati: Mitch Hildebrandt; Matt Bahner, Austin Berry, Harrison Delbridge, Tyler Polak; Aodhan Quinn, Corben Bone, Daryl Fordyce (Andrew Wiedeman 81′); Kadeem Dacres, Danni König, Jimmy McLaughlin (Omar Cummings 90+1′)
Unused Subs: Dallas Jaye, Paul Nicholson, Pat McMahon, Marco Dominguez, Cristian Martinez

Scoring summary

CIN: Danni König — 18′ (McLaughlin)
BST: Seku Conneh — 33′ (PK)
CIN: Danni König — 52′

Disciplinary summary

CIN: Daryl Fordyce — 43′ (foul)
BST: Chris Nanco — 45+2′ (foul)
BST: Seku Conneh — 47′ (foul)
BST: Ken Tribbett — 64′ (foul)
CIN: Aodhan Quinn — 86′ (foul)
BST: Amoy Brown — 90′ (foul)


  1. WeAreSteel2K17 says:

    Would’ve had them if it hadn’t been for the lightning delay.

    3-match homestand coming up. Hope Philly people will consider coming up and supporting Steel while the Union are away.

  2. Tim Jones says:

    For the technical detail aficionados, Thursday’s 11 am game hosting Charleston Battery will be the Steel’s experimental game with Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
    An extra official monitors all available video feeds and calls the head referee over to watch when it is “clear and obvious” that a correction is needed in four situations: a goal, a penalty, a red card, and a case of mistaken identity.

    • Why in the world did they decide to have a game at 11 AM on a Thursday?

      • Tim Jones says:

        While I am not privy to inside detail, it is being called education Day and is supposed to be available to local schools in some fashion. Whether this makes a virtue of necessity I have no idea.
        I know last season had one noontime/1 pm start, because the sun fried us.
        And who knows what the other side’s transportation convenience may entail.

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