USL Match report

Preseason match: Bethlehem Steel FC 5 – 2 Penn FC

Photos Steel Communications

In Wednesday’s installment of the long-running repeating soccer serial “A Tale of Two Halves,” Penn FC won the first half 1-0 and Bethlehem Steel won the second 5-1.

The bulk of the Steel’s minutes went to Academy players, as both Penn and the Steel withheld key veterans.

Not your old Harrisburg City Islanders

The NCAA forbids high school students from competing against its college teams to avoid recruiting abuses. So no Academy players may take the field against Syracuse Saturday or Villanova next Wednesday. Hence the heavy dose of Union Academy players and the veteran preservation program.

The Match

On the day, Steel head coach Brendan Burke seemed fairly pleased with his group’s performances, calling them fearless on the day. In the first half the visitors were extremely hard to break down. The Steel might have had one or two half chances, while the opponents had 9 shots, 5 of which were on goal.

Sallah Muhammed scored in the fourth minute assisted by former Miami FC offensive midfielder Calvin Rezende, who seized Steel center back Brandon Aubrey’s third bad pass of the first four minutes to create the chance.

This was the first time in 2018 the Steel have seen USL top caliber defensive pressure from attackers. Aubrey and his mates adjusted quickly and made no more bad mistakes like that. As Penn FC began to tire, the Steel second group began to enter the offensive third. Penn FC played low pressure, picking up only at the top of the center circle.

Trialist Jepson notched the equalizer

As against Junior Lone Star, in the second half the Steel’s final group was in better condition than Penn’s reserve lineup. The Steel tied it in minute 60. Two trialists combined for the equalizer, Audi Jepson from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay scored, and Gregory Messam Jr. from St. George’s College in Jamaica, a high school where he played with former Steel player Amoy Brown, had the assist.

Then the flood gates opened.

First USL minutes

Striker Aidan Apodaca, center-mid Mike Catalano, defensive center-mid A.J. Paterson and recent loan signing left back Prosper Chiluya all had their first exposure to the league today, as did five academy members: goalkeeper Lukas Burns, central-mid Darius Lewis, center back Ben Ofiemu, forward Jeremy Rafanello, and winger Tonny Temple. Burns saved two outright breakaways in the final sixth of the game to preserve the win.

These were also the first USL experiences for most of Penn FC. There are only four Harrisburg City Islanders veterans returning and not all of them were present.

New Penn FC coach Raoul Voss’s better, first side was highly organized, thoroughly disciplined to their style of play, geometrically precise in their positioning, and not quite yet conditioned to maintain the impressive showing for a full 45 minutes. Bill Becher has a worthy successor in Harrisburg.

We met the Steel’s three latest signings afterwards, so they are our Three Points.

Aidan Apodaca grinned from ear to ear as he answered questions for the first time as a professional. Burke has commented twice on the “intent” with which he plays the game, the energy and the hustle. He is shorter than Cory Burke but pacier and very strong. He loves to pressure fullbacks and is good at it. He strikes a heavy shot accurately. Coach mentioned the link-up game as an area in need of improvement, and everybody on the Steel needs to improve defensive shape in both halves of the field. But Apodaca listens to instruction well and tries to use it.

A.J. Paterson used the word joy to describe his feelings on signing a pro contract. He describes himself as a central midfielder, saying that today was perhaps the third time he had ever played center back, which he did in the second half. He was more confident in himself in the first as a defensive center midfielder. He is clearly open to playing wherever needed. PSP noticed in the first half that he had serious range of distribution from DCM. We learned that Bethlehem had talked to Paterson about a contract prior to his being drafted by NYCFC. Burke said that when the Citizens opportunity did not work out they immediately re-opened contact.

Prosper Chiluya illustrates “hard”

Prosper Chiluya has been in the U.S. since last Friday. To get here he flew from Zambia to Johannesburg to Atlanta to Philly. It took about 24 hours. According to Brotherly Game’s Evan Villella, he is the first Zambian to play in USL since at least 2011. He smiled when PSP asked whether he had learned something from a second half incident in which he refused to be knocked down and the Penn FC man did a flip over his immoveable back. He used the word “hard” rather than Philadelphia’s favorite “tough,” but the concept is the same. Being away from home will be a serious adjustment, but the organization takes care of its own. Young Chiluya is a left back.


PENN – 4’ Sallah Muhammad (Calvin Rezende)
BST – 61’ Audi Jepson (Gregory Messam Jr.)
BST – 74’ Aidan Apodaca (Brenden Aaronson)
BST – 77’ Tonny Temple
PENN – 79’ Aaron Dennis (Naeem Charles)
BST – 83’ Tonny Temple (Gregory Messam Jr.)
BST – 89’ Brenden Aaronson (Issa Rayyan)


Group 1 (played first 30 minutes and final 30 minutes)
Tomas Romero (played first 60’); Prosper Chiluya, Brandon Aubrey (played first 45’), Ben Ofeimu, Sam Wancowicz; AJ Paterson, Mike Catalano; Issa Rayyan, Brenden Aaronson, Tonny Temple; Aidan Apodaca.

Group 2 (31’-60’)
Lukas Burkes (61’-90’); Mickey George, AJ Paterson, Ben Ofeimu, Michael Pellegrino; Seth Kuhn (45’-90’), Gregory Messam Jr.; Jeremy Rafanello, Darius Lewis, Aidan Jepson; Brandon Allen.

PENN FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders)

First-half starters
Romu Peiser; Pedro Galvao, Harri Hawkins, Kyle Venter, Jake Bond; Daniel Metzger, Mauro Eustaquio; Aaron Dennis, Calvin Rezende, Naeem Charles; Saalih Muhammad.

Second half starters
Sean Lewis; Salvatore Barone, Harri Hawkins, Tiago Calvano, Marco Franco; Miguel Jaime, Dan Metzger (Chris Hill 65’), Jorge Rivera, Fabio Desousa, Jake Bond, Naeem Charles.

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