Philadelphia Union II / USL Match report

Match Report: Bethlehem Steel FC sweeps season series with New York Red Bulls II with 2-0 victory

Photo courtesy USL

Late Sunday afternoon at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem Steel FC swept the 2017 season series against New York Red Bulls II with a score of 2-0.

For those who remember the second game of Bethlehem Steel FC’s existence, a 0-4 shellacking in Jersey early in 2016, the victory is an emphatic marker of tangible progress.

The reversal of fortunes between the two clubs among the two seasons also illustrates what will likely be the topsy-turvy nature of year-to-year success for player development sides in USL, since Red Bulls II badly missed 2016 goalkeeper Ryan Meara and 2016 central defender Aaron Long. Both now play for their first team.

Chris Nanco of the Steel replaced Seku Conneh who was held out of the eighteen with a strained right medial collateral ligament, and scored the first goal in the 17th minute on a beautifully simple assist from attacking center-mid Adam Najem.

Right flank mid Fabian Herbers highlighted his medical rehab assignment with an easy strike from the center of the penalty area in the 31st minute on an assist by Santi Moar, who had dribbled the endline amidst defenders to dish out the easy score.

Jake McGuire had several important saves, three in the first half and one close to the game’s end to preserve the clean sheet and maintain the series pattern of five consecutive shutouts. Red Bulls II had three in 2016. The Steel have two this year.

As head coach Brendan Burke reminded everyone in his Thursday conference call, New York is also a system team. Their system was at the root of Bethlehem’s win. They play a high defensive restraining line, a formation that requires pace from their center backs. Chris Nanco consistently out-paced Tim Schmoll and Hassan Nbam.

Nanco’s pace opened space in front of the back four behind the Red Bulls midfield in which the Steel’s technical, pacey midfielders consistently counterattacked in the first half. Santi Moar on the left, Herbers on the right, and the centre stack front-to-back of Nanco, Najem, Anthony Fontana and James Chambers caught the New York midfield too far up the field time after time after time.  Schmoll and Ndam did well to surrender two goals only.

New York coach John Wolyniec adjusted wisely at halftime, replacing Brandon Allen’s pedestrian pace with Douglas Martinez at striker and instructing his midfield to increase their upfield defensive pressure on the ball. The Steel struggled for a bit after the second half tap but adjusted after about ten minutes.  Chambers and center backs Ken Tribbett and Auston Trusty rose to the challenge while Fontana and Najem were realizing, recognizing, and remediating.

Amoy Brown came on for Herbers at the 61st minute and moved to striker, with Nanco shifting to Herbers’ right flank midfield. Yosef Samuel came on about ten minutes later for a spent Nanco, receiving a high compliment from his coach in being trusted to defend a two-goal lead for the last twenty minutes. Josh Heard did the same roughly ten minutes after that for tiring Santi Moar.

Coach Burke and his staff are undoubtedly proud of their young men, as well they should be. Overcoming the absences of suspended central defender Hugh Roberts, winger Cory Burke, and leading scorer Seku Conneh to score twice and keep a clean sheet is praiseworthy and belief-inspiring.

The Steel are undefeated since May 28th in seven games, winning five and tying two. They reclaimed fifth place in the eastern conference table. They next host Pittsburgh at Goodman Saturday, July 15th at 5 PM.

Three Points

Two teenagers:  On the last day he can still claim to be seventeen, Matt Real played a fine game against Red Bulls 2017 super draft first pick Zeiko Lewis. Three months and five days before his own eighteenth birthday, Anthony Fontana likewise did well against veterans of last year’s Red Bulls II double, Vincent Bezecourt, Dan Metzger and newcomer Arun Basuljevic.

An embryonic rivalry?  One of the better crowds the Steel have had all season included both the Red Bulls II’s supporters group and quite a few interested fans.  Reporters covering the club were also in the pressbox. After all, Bethlehem is about 75 miles from Red Bulls Arena.

The family Najem:  Adam’s older brother David started at left back for his younger brother’s former destination team. The younger brother has produced three assists and a goal in their two games. He is now in a three-way tie for the Bethlehem franchise record for assists in a career with four total. He shares the mark with 2016 captain and right back Ryan Richter and 2017’s captain central midfielder James Chambers.


Bethlehem: Jake McGuire*; Aaron Jones*, Ken Tribbett*, Auston Trusty*, Matt Real; James Chambers C., Adam Najem*; Fabian Herbers * (Amoy Brown 61’), Anthony Fontana**, Santi Moar (Josh Heard 86’); Chris Nanco (Yosef Samuel 74’).  Unused substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Matt Mahoney, Charlie Reymann, Dawson McCartney**.  – *Union loanee, **Academy player.

New York: Evan Louro; David Najem, Tim Scmoll, Hassan Nbam (David Abidor 74’), Ethan Kutler; Dan Metzger C., Arun Basuljevic, Vincent Bezecourt (Florian Valot 64’), Derrick Etienne, Brandon Allen (Douglas Martinez 46’), Zeiko Lewis. Unused substitutes: Sam Ilin;, Andrew Tinari,  Junior Flemmings.

Scoring Summary:

Bethlehem      16:43               Chris Nanco (from Adam Najem)

Bethlehem      30:43               Fabian Herbers (from Santi Moar)

Disciplinary Summary:

Bethlehem      32nd                 Fabian Herbers           (foul)

New York        34th                  Derrick Etienne           (foul)

Bethlehem      66th                  Chris Nanco                 (foul)

New York        76th                 Arun Basuljevic     (foul)



Referee: Gustavo Solorio


  1. Its encouraging to see Bethlehem playing so well.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Looked like Burke came on as a late sub for Jamaica in their 2-0 win yesterday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *