USL Match report

Steel split back-to-back matches

Bethlehem Steel FC split two games Saturday and Sunday, beating NCAA program Loyola of Maryland 5-0 in a closed-door scrimmage Saturday afternoon in Baltimore and losing Sunday afternoon to Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0-2 in Chester.

The combination of the two games gave all healthy members of Bethlehem’s “core roster” a full 90 minute match for conditioning purposes.

Steel head coach Brendan Burke revealed basic details of the Loyola scrimmage after the Pittsburgh game. PSP knows only the starting lineup and the three subs from the exercise against Loyola. We do not know unused subs.

The Pittsburgh game was played primarily by Union reserves and Academy players because the Steel will travel to College Park to play the University of Maryland Tuesday night, a match in which no high school students may play.

By attending media consensus, the man of the match against Pittsburgh was the wind. At 20 mph or more, it dominated. Until Pittsburgh head coach Bob Lilley sent on four or five substitutes midway through the second half, Pittsburgh controlled play and prevented any sustained Steel possession in its offensive third, both with and against the wind.

Jake McGuire and the young players among the Union reserves defended well and slowly began to jell into a more cohesive unit offensively as the match wore on. However, no professionals were available to play striker, and this  was the first time Academy members Jeremy Rafanello and Tonny Temple have ever played striker against playoff-caliber USL defenders.

The news lies in the lineup. Eric Ayuk played flank back again, this time on the right side. Burke indicated after the game that the appearances have not been merely stopgap measures. Ayuk is being evaluated at the position. Burke mentioned that the speed with which Ayuk transitioned and delivered offense-starting passes needed to improve to keep himself from getting caught on the ball and having to extricate himself. But he commended the energy, toughness and stamina Ayuk displayed.

The other news of note comes from the Loyola match the day before. Aidan Apodaca played at the number 10 and scored twice. He was on the field simultaneously with striker Brandon Allen. Earlier in preseason, the two competed for the striker position, but Burke decided to test both

By this coming Wednesday Bethlehem will have played three games in its four previous days. They will finish their preseason matches next Saturday at the Power Training Complex against New York Red Bulls 2, at 12:15 pm.

Three points:

A Steel alumnus: Former Steel center back Hugh Roberts is on trial with Pittsburgh and started, stepping back onto the pitch a second time after being subbed out.

The match’s teaching value: While coach Burke was not pleased with his side’s performance off the opening tap offensively, he valued the Riverhounds game as a teaching example of how many USL teams will play: defensive, direct, well-organized, and physically getting after you. It was a wake-up call about what lies ahead.

Alumni succeeding: Burke was quite pleased with the performances of Steel alumni Corey Burke, Auston Trusty, Anthony Fontana, and Derrick Jones for the Union Saturday night. Validation of the Steel as a program is the short version of the point.

Steel/ Union Youth Reserves Lineups

All Union players listed below are 23 years old or younger.

Saturday v Loyola: Larry Steiner**; Matt Mahoney, Sam Wancowicz*, Brandon Aubrey, Mickey George* (Prosper Chiluya ’45); A. J. Paterson, Mike Catalano; Santi Moar (Mickey George* ’45), Aidan Apodaca, Chris Nanco; Brandon Allen.      *trialist      **guest player

Sunday v Pittsburgh: Jake McGuire; Matt Real, Mark McKenzie, Josh Yaro, Eric Ayuk; Derrick Jones (Brenden Aaronson* 63′), James Chambers** (Michael Pellegrino* 45′); Tonny Temple*, Adam Najem, Marcus Epps; Jeremy Rafanello* (Seth Kuhn* 45′).      *Academy player      **Steel player

Scoring Summary

Loyola match: BSFC – Aidan Apodaca (2), Brandon Allen, Mike Catalano, Chris Nanco (PK). Assists and times unavailable.

Pittsburgh match:

PGH – 5′ Kevin Kerr
PGH – 90′ Jordan Dover

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