Philadelphia Union II

Match report: Bethlehem Steel FC 1-1 St. Louis FC

Photo: Rob Simmons

Twenty shots, and the only one that went in was the least likely.

Bethlehem Steel FC watched chance after chance miss the frame and was forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with Saint Louis FC in a foul-packed regular-season finale at Goodman Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

A large chunk of possession amounted to nothing, and a handful of favorable chances went begging in the early goings for the home side, and before anyone could blink, St. Louis had an unlikely lead.

With midfielder Sebastian Dalgaard lurking, Steel FC right back Aaron Jones attempted a flick back-pass with his head to keeper Jake McGuire. He misfired, and Dalgaard was there to punch it in on the near post.

The mishap came after a favorable 2-on-1 counter chance for Santi Moar in the 14th minute and a missed wide-open take from striker Cory Burke seconds later.

“I think in the first half we were disappointed to not be 3-0 up, but it’s just crazy, fluky goal,” Steel coach Brendan Burke said. “There were some bad decisions on our part, especially two or three that compounded their only really good chance on goal, so that’s disappointing to shoot yourself in the foot.”

Less than a minute later, though, Bethlehem’s Matt Real responded on the other end. After finding space on the corner of the 18-yard box, he looked up to see a small opening and fired a shot past goalie Devala Gorrick on the near post to tie the match. It was the first professional goal of the 18-year-old’s career.

“Positive energy leads to positive things, and a negative thing happened to us, which was the unlucky goal, so I decided that I had to lift the team up with some positive energy, and I put my head down and kept going,” Real said. “Obviously scoring your first professional goal is great no matter what the circumstance is, but it was good that I was able to contribute to the team and help us tie it.”

“We highlighted Matt (Real) at halftime and said to the group, ‘Everybody has to show that kind of energy,'” his head coach said after the game. “I thought Matt was fearless tonight. His quality on the ball showed but also his energy level was through the roof. He wanted that as bad or more than anyone on the field.”

The two sides each took a goal into the break, with Steel FC possessing 55 percent of the ball holding St. Louis to just three total shots. Burke, in on goal again, had a left-footed rifle saved by Gorrick and blasted another one-on-one chance over the bar in the 43rd minute

“He was deadly,” Brendan Burke said. “That could have been a four-goal game — probably has to be now for him to progress to the next level.”

After an early yellow card and a scruff near the sideline, St. Louis settled into the match and used pressure to win more of the ball. McGuire watched a dangerous chance in front of net fly out for a corner in the 52nd minute, which was one of four for the visitors. Steel FC was limited in the attack until the 65th minute, when Burke laced a low, driven pass across the frame, but no one was there to meet it.

“I think they did a really good job coming out and pressing in the second half and they definitely unbalanced us a little bit,” Brendan Burke said of St. Louis.

Cory Burke was again at the center of attention in the 81st, after he dribbled into the right side of the box with just one defender to beat. He faked right, slid left and shot a left-footer off the far post. The ball rolled across the line and was frantically cleared by a St. Louis defender.

Steel FC finished with 20 shots, but just five were on target and 11 came from outside the box. The No. 8 seed conceded 14 fouls and completed 74.5 percent of its passes. The result makes for just one win in the final five matches of the regular season.

“Slightly deflated, to be honest personally, and I think the group is as well since we didn’t win the game, especially because it was there for us to go and get the three points,” Steel midfielder James Chambers said. “I’d be a little more concerned if we weren’t creating chances. In Rochester we played ok but we didn’t have a clinical edge and today we did. You have to take it that the chances will come and that they will get put away.”

“I think it’s good that we’re generating a lot of chances, but in Louisville it has to be much better,” Real said. “Tonight wasn’t our night on the offensive end. We did create a lot of chances but at the end of the day, no one’s going to say ‘we created a lot of chances.’ It’s going to come down to who scored more goals.”

Real and company will look to put a frustrating match behind them on Friday in Louisville, where they’ll face No. 1 seed Louisville City FC for the third time this season. It was a 2-2 draw the last time Steel FC were in town, and Brendan Burke is confident in the attacking potency, even in a hostile environment.

“We have good individual players. We have guys that can be match winners,” Burke said. “Sometimes, you’re just downright unlucky. They’re keeper made a great save on Cory (Burke) at one point. We went wide of the frame once, we hit the post once, we went over the bar on a one-on-one situation, so it’s a frustrating night. Hopefully all those goals are saved for next weekend.”

Bethlehem will face Louisville in the USL playoffs after earning the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Kickoff is this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Louisville.

Three Points 

  1. Cory Burke – Coach Burke was evidently both impressed and disappointed with his striker after this one. On a couple chances, like his shot off the post late on, he did well just to create an attempt and put it close to frame. On a couple others, it was a glaring miss. If even half the chances are created on Friday, Burke must be on the scoresheet.
  2. On the road – Steel FC wanted Tampa Rowdies in a rematch. After two draws in back-to-back matches at the end of last month, coach Burke made it clear that he loved the matchup and would have been confident going in, even on the road. But after all the missed chances, it’s instead top-seeded Louisville, which walked out of Goodman Stadium with a 3-1 win back in August. His team has proven it can play in the awkward confines of a baseball stadium, but deep down, Burke knew what a win meant.
  3. The postseason – At the end of the day, a postseason berth is a postseason berth, and it’s particularly impressive in Steel FC’s second season in the United Soccer League. A crowd of over 3,000 witnessed history and even after a frustrating draw, Chambers and his teammates were looking forward to at least one more match. In the grand scheme of things, that matters.


Bethlehem Steel FC

Jake McGuire, Aaron Jones, Hugh Roberts, Auston Trusty, Matt Real, Adam Najem, James Chambers, Chris Nanco (Josef Samuel 59′), Santi Moar (Josh Heard 85′), Brendan Aaronson (Seku Conneh 59′), Cory Burke

Unused Substitutes: Tomas Romero, Matthew Mahoney, Charlie Reymann, Amoy Brown

Saint Louis FC

Devala Gorrick, Aedan Stanley, Konrad Plewa, Erick Cabalceta (Ivan Mirkovic (51′), Nick Radosavljevic (Seth Rudolph 66′), Tyler David, Emir Alihodzic, Octavio Guzman (Jack Maher 45′), Emmanuel Appiah, Sebastian Dalgaard, Daniel Jackson

Unused Substitutes: Jack Filla, May Alvarez, Mats Bjurman, Tyler Feeley

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