USL Match report

Match Report: Bethlehem Steel FC 1-1 Ottawa Fury

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel

Sunday afternoon amid periodic spitting precipitation, Bethlehem Steel FC drew the Ottawa Fury 1-1 at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium.

In the 28th minute of the first half from well beyond 25 yards in the central channel on an assist from defensive center midfielder Ken Tribbett, striker Seku Conneh struck an instantaneous laser beam into the back of the net. Fury goalkeeper Callum Irving had no chance.

Conneh’s goal should be a candidate for USL goal of the week. It also sets a new club single season scoring record and an overall club scoring record in the eleventh match of a thirty-two-game season.

Unfortunately for the Steel, in the 70th minute, Ottawa second-half flank midfield substitute Ryan Williams was again unmarked in the right channel and found Michael Salazar for the tying goal. Williams had been creating overloads on the right flank against increasingly tired Steel defenders Cory Burke and Gili Wijnaldum and Bethlehem paid for their failure to defend this particular service.

Noted Philly Soccer Page reader “El Pachyderm” would have loved watching this game since the Steel were clearly the better soccer team on the day tactically and aesthetically, in spite of the Fury’s pedigree. The central midfield trio of Tribbett, captain James Chambers and attacking center mid Adam Najem were ably supported by center backs Josh Yaro and Mark McKenzie. The Steel held a possession advantage of 70% for the game, completing over 500 passes.

Najem in particular deserves mention as always being in the right place to continue a passing sequence, including some technically precise, extremely challenging, under pressure flicks much closer than five yards. Both his anticipation and his execution were superb.

As happy as El P would have been with the Steel, so disgusted he would have been with the Fury. Direct service down the central channel to the striker. Again…and again..and again…and you have the idea.

The target, Fury striker Tucker Hume, is an impressive physical specimen. Ken Tribbett and one of the center backs double teamed him at every opportunity, just barely holding their own. The rest of the back line did an excellent job picking up second balls.

Praise must go to referee Mark Kadlecik who had to give a yellow card in the first minute of the first half to Ottawa defensive center mid Onua Obasi. He delivered his judgment against an extremely physical foul immediately and decisively. He did it again to the Steel’s right back Aaron Jones in the fourth minute for an equally reckless slide tackle. Had he been less immediate and incisive the game would have gotten out of control. Within the first quarter of the match he had taken Obasi aside again in the manner of a dutch uncle to chastise him for persistent infringement, successfully.

Three Points

The Fury’s keeper: Callum Irving made two key first-half saves to keep his side in the match. In the second minute Fury left back Andrae Campbell, yards behind the nearest Steel attacker, handled a ball in the penalty box. Irving saved the penalty kick from Burke. In the 38th minute, he flew across his goal mouth to tip wide a wonderful opposite-corner-high attempt from Marcus Epps. The play should be nominated for save of the week.

Coaching moves: Right now, Brendan Burke is a player development coach first and foremost. When a player repeats a series of errors, Burke leaves him on the pitch so that player learns to correct them. Less principled coaches would have subbed Cory Burke off sooner for his failures to defend Ryan Williams.

The coach’s final move was perfect. At its end, the game was stretched and the Fury’s artillery was lobbing serve after serve high down the middle. In his return to Steel FC, Yaro did many things well, but winning head balls against Hume was not among them. Hugh Roberts soared repeatedly to return such service whence it had come in the last ten minutes.

Nervous in Winston-Salem: The organization expected Ottawa to be what they were: mature, experienced, quite physical and a challenge. Seven Union loanees came down for the game. Integrated among the first teamers on defense and in the midfield, was lone Academy representative Mark McKenzie. As he did exactly 365 days earlier in his first Steel start and every game since, McKenzie “belonged.” He needed help with Tucker Hume, but who didn’t?

If I were a Wake Forest University soccer coach focused on defenders, I would pay careful attention to every nuance of every public statement from Earnie Stewart between now and August 1st.


Bethlehem: John McCarthy*; Aaron Jones*, Josh Yaro* (Hugh Roberts 82’), Mark McKenzie**, Giliano Wijnaldum* (Matt Mahoney 77’); James Chambers (captain) , Ken Tribbett*; Marcus Epps*, Adam Najem*, Cory Burke (Santi Moar 77’); Seku Conneh. – Unused substitutes: Jahmali Waite**; Josh Heard, Yosef Samuel, , Chris Nanco. Union Loanee*, Academy player**

Ottawa: Callum Irving; Jonathan Barden, Shane McEleny, Kyle Venter (captain), Andrae Campbell; Onua Obasi, Sergio Manisio;; Michael Salazar (Jamar Dixon 77’), Gerardo Bruna (Jimmy Shammar-Sanon 56’), Sito Seoane (Ryan Williams 56’); Tucker Hume. Unused substitutes: David Paulmin;, Eddie Edwards, Aron Mkungilwa, Thomas Meiller-Giguere.

Scoring summary:

Bethlehem:    Seku Conneh (from Ken Tribbett)        27:48
Ottawa:          Michael Salazar (from Ryan Williams) 69:48

Disciplinary summary:

Ottawa           Onua Obasi              Yellow Card (foul)   0:52
Bethlehem    Aaron Jones             Yellow Card (foul)   3:57
Ottawa           Jonathan Barden    Yellow Card (foul) 33:28
Bethlehem    Ken Tribbett             Yellow Card (foul) 86:44

One Comment

  1. Good sign that Yaro was to go 80+ a day after going 30.

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