USL Match report

Match Report: Bethlehem lose to Charlotte 0-4

photo courtesy Charlotte Independence

Bethlehem Steel suffered their short existence’s worst home defeat Saturday evening at Lehigh, losing to Charlotte Independence 0-4.

The Steel have shown they are no longer one of the poorer teams in the United Soccer League. But they also showed last night that they are not yet among the league’s elite. Red-hot Charlotte were simply a better soccer team. Their undefeated streak is now ten games. The Steel lost back-to-back for the first time in 2017.

Charlotte scored the second time they penetrated significantly beyond midfield, and inexorably the experienced, precisely-honed, excellent USL Eastern Conference side proved that their whole was much greater than the sum of its parts.

Bethlehem — playing a lineup of seven Union reserves with two in unusual positions — looked good dominating possession for the first five minutes, while Charlotte head coach Mike Jeffries’ side sat in and assessed what they faced.

Then, Charlotte central midfielder Lewis Hilton scored in the seventh minute on an assist from attacking central midfielder Enzo Martinez, and their climb to dominance began. Charlotte made runs out of the midfield onto precisely delivered passes all evening, and the Steel simply could not defend them. By halftime, possession statistics had become approximately balanced, and for the first twenty-five minutes of the second half when taken as a stand-alone period, Charlotte dominated the ball 73:27.

Striker Jorge Herrerra had taken his goal from an excellent cross by Charlotte right back Joel Johnson in the 19th minute, but the decisive statement was made by Hilton again, again from Enzo Martinez, in the 48th, to put paid to any Steel dream of a comeback. Alex Martinez’s strike in the 80th, from halftime sub Jun Marques Davidson simply iced the Independence’s cake.

Three points

Concussion recovery: Derrick Jones has recovered from his concussion, since he started this afternoon in Bethlehem and played the full ninety. He was struggling toward the end of the game and was not yet his usual self. He will probably be back for more work with the Steel.

A valuable player: Seku Conneh returned as a starter but is not yet returned to the form he had before his injury. The young man is 21 years old, and this may be one of his first experiences recovering his mentality after an injury of some significance. Burke is right to start him, as he will not learn the lesson without playing through the challenge.

Unusual positions: Anthony Fontana started as the right flank midfielder, and Auston Trusty started again as the left back.

When the Steel had possession, they frequently attacked through their left channel. Trusty was playing behind Cory Burke who attacks as an individual not through combinations. Trusty had an impact in the first half, causing Charlotte to attack him in the second to keep him at home. His individual one-v-one defending as a flank back is an opportunity for future growth, but his fire, athleticism, and speed are attractive out wide.

Fontana executed his responsibilities well in the few opportunities that came his way. He and Aaron Jones showed understanding of the organization’s template for outside channel play, prior to the seventeen-year-old being subbed off for Chris Nanco. He was displaced from the central channel by Derrick Jones’s rehabilitation and conditioning assignment.

Lineups

Charlotte: Cody Mizell; Joel Johnson, Bilal Duckett (C), Henry Kalungi, Austin Yearwood; Callum Ross, Lewis HIlton; David Estrada (Jaime Siaj 83’), Enzo Martinez, Alex Martinez (David Spies 83’); Jorge Herrerra (Jun Marques Davidson 46’). Unused substitutes: Kainoa Likewise; Jacob Bender, Luke Waechter, Casey Townshend.

Bethlehem: Tomas Romero**; Aaron Jones*, Ken Tribbett*, Richie Marquez*, Auston Trusty*; Derrick Jones*, James Chambers (C); Adam Najem*, Anthony Fontana*(Chris Nanco 58’), Cory Burke; Seku Conneh (Santi Moar 63’). Unused substitutes: Matt Freese**; Matt Mahoney, Matt Real, Hugh Roberts, Chris Wingate. Union Loanee* Academy Player**.

Scoring Summary:

Charlotte:          7th minute           Lewis Hilton (from Enzo Martinez, Jorge Herrerra)
Charlotte:         19th minute          Jorge Herrerra (from Joel Johnson)
Charlotte:         48th minute          Lewis Hilton (from Enzo Martinez)
Charlotte           80th Minute         Alex Martinez (from Jun Marques Davidson)

Disciplinary Summary:

Charlotte:          32nd minute      Yellow       Joel Joseph (foul)
Charlotte:          45+2 minute      Yellow       Alex Martinez (foul off the ball)
Bethlehem:       48th minute       Yellow       James Chambers (dissent)
Bethlehem:       51st minute        Yellow       Anthony Fontana (foul)
Bethlehem:       65th minute       Yellow       Chris Nanco (foul)
Charlotte:         72nd minute      Yellow        Cody Mizell (time-wasting)
Bethlehem:      73rd minute        Red           Aaron Jones (dangerous play)
Charlotte:         90th+2 minute  Yellow      Bilal Duckett

Today’s eight are the most cards in a Steel game this season.

Referee: Henrik Karlsson

2 Comments

  1. Went to this game and then went home and watched the Union. In my opinion, the Steel center backs (former Union starters Marquez and Tribbett) really struggled with the speed of the Charlotte front. At least two of the goals had a “I thought you had him!?!” feel. The team I saw two weeks ago with no real former or current Union players looked better and more cohesive. It did not look like an effort issue. Many good players who did not play good together.

  2. Old Soccer Coach says:

    The observation about the Marquez-Tribbett pairing as centerbacks seemed to me correct.
    .
    The vulnerability through the central channel dominated the game.
    .
    The D. Jones-Chambers combination in from of them was not particularly effective either, which might reflect Jones’s medical status.
    .
    Tim Jones’s conclusion above is clearly that Charlotte’s attacking four are quite strong: well-integrated, pacey, with precise service among them, and that the flank backs and central mids anticipate and execute well with them.
    .
    Charlotte were an impressive side.

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