USL Match report

Match Report: Bethlehem Steel 4 – Richmond Kickers 1

Photo: Rob Simmons

Bethlehem Steel FC won its home opener for the first time in the club’s three-year history, riding goals from Eric Ayuk, Derrick Jones, and a brace from Brandon Allen to a 4-1 victory over the Richmond Kickers on Sunday afternoon.

Seven loanees from parent club Philadelphia Union started for the Steel on a blustery 40-degree day at Goodman Stadium.

The Steel controlled the first half with 65% possession, scoring twice and restricting Richmond to merely two segments of sustained possession in the Steel’s defensive third. Bethlehem was playing with the wind, which may have influenced Richmond head coach Leigh Colishaw’s decision to sit deep and defend in the first half.

Eric Ayuk opened the scoring from the left in the 24th minute after an excellent cross from Matt Mahoney. Travis Worra, the Richmond goalkeeper, tipped the cross on to Ayuk for the finish.

In the 40th minute, Derrick Jones collected a ball from Marcus Epps just inside midfield, dribbled past and through four different defenders leaving others watching helplessly, and scored across Worra’s front inside the left post. It was a sensational individual goal.

At the opening of the second half Richmond came out to play, the beneficiary of what was left of a dying wind and energy preserved from the first 45 minutes. In the first ten minutes of the half they had the better of the play, culminating in a beautiful strike from distance by former West Chester United player Oscar Umar on an assist from Brian Schriver, cutting the deficit to 2-1. The Kickers goal was not the fault of the Steel’s rebuilt central defense, which caught Richmond offsides five times in the first half.

But the decision to come out to play, while necessary, exposed Richmond’s conditioning deficits and its backline deficiencies as the game went on.

The East End Army and captain James Chambers celebrate one of Brandon Allen’s goals

And Bethlehem’s new striker, Brandon Allen, took advantage, striking for a second-half brace on his debut.

His first came in the 64th minute off a melee created to the right of the Richmond goal by Derrick Jones challenging the goalkeeper.

The second came on the verge of stoppage time on a feed from Mike Catalano. Allen out-competed the keeper for his own rebound near the left post before applying the finish.

Next, Bethlehem travels to St. Petersburg to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Steel defense will play without Union homegrowns Mark McKenzie and Matt Real, both of whom have been called into Tab Ramos’s USYNT U-20 camp in Spain until March 28. A.J. Paterson is expected to step in for McKenzie and Prosper Chiluya for Real next Saturday night in Florida.  The Rowdies will provide a test, especially since it is their home opener.

Three points:

Passes completed: Last season Steel head coach Brendan Burke highlighted 450 completed passes as a worthy objective. Sunday the Steel completed 606, with 355 of those coming in the first half.

Adam Cann is right about Adam Najem and possession: Richmond proved that not contesting Adam Najem, Derrick Jones and James Chambers in the midfield is a formula for failure. When they challenged the Steel’s central midfield in the second half the contest stopped being a clinic in bunker-busting and became a contest. Najem’s passing accuracy in the first half was over 96%.

The B. A.s: Two Steel players with initials “B. A.” both mentioned when they signed that they wanted second chances to prove themselves, with an eye toward future MLS opportunities. Brandon Allen’s performance may send such a message to the first team squad. Center back Brandon Aubrey’s statistics are less apparent, but he passed his first test in a high line well.


BSFC: John McCarthy*; Matt Mahoney, Mark McKenzie*, Brandon Aubrey, Matt Real*; James Chambers (c), Derrick Jones* (Mike Catalano 87’); Eric Ayuk* (Santi Moar 68th), Adam Najem*, Marcus Epps* (Issa Rayyan 83’); Brandon Allen.

Unused substitutes: Tomas Romero**, Prosper Chiluya, A. J. Paterson, , Brenden Aaronson**.

*=Union, **=Academy.

Out Injured: Omar Holness, Aidan Apodaca, Drew Skundrich, Chris Nanco.

Richmond: Travis Worra; Alex Lee, Meikel Williams, Conor Shanosky, Braeden Troyer; Scott Thomsen, Yudai Imura (Bruno Miranda 61’), Oscar Umar, Raul Gonzalez (Giuseppe Gentile 61’), Brian Shriver (Koby Osei-Wusu 78’), Heviel Cordoves.

Unused substitutes: Trevor Spangenberg; William Yomby, Finnlay Wyatt, Fred Owusu Sekyere.

Scoring Summary:

Bethlehem: Eric Ayuk 24′
Bethlehem: Derrick Jones 40′
Richmond: Oscar Umar (Brian Schriver) 57′
Bethlehem: Brandon Allen 64′
Bethlehem: Brandon Allen (Mike Catalano) 89′

Disciplinary Summary:

There were no cards.


  1. WeAreSteel2K18 says:

    Dominating win. It could have been 7. Good crowd too. Bodes well for when being outdoors is actually enjoyable.

  2. Thank you for write_up.
    Question…McCarthy was sub on union bench against Columbus but starter for Steel?
    Pardon my ignorance…started following steel after your writing over the winter and trying to understand how Usl treats the mls b teams, and what is allowed and not allowed.
    Thought if on lineup for one team that weekend they couldn’t play for other. If allowed is it two way street?
    Romero normally Steel keeper? Does he play for academy too or did he graduate?
    Thanks, Tim.

  3. Good morning, Union goal. You are an early bird!
    Derrick Jones did the same thing as McCarthy.
    The quick answer is that a player can be on the Union bench Saturday night and play a USL game Sunday.
    The more complex answer is that a 23 person game-possible roster must be submitted to USL by close of business Friday afternoon if the game is Sunday, Thursday if Saturday, etc. it gives media types in general the ability to prepare. Think USL staff writers who have to cover all the regular content for as many as 16 games at a time since there are 33 teams.
    So, we can assume Earnie Stewart, Chris Albright, Jim Curtin and Brendan Burke have a meeting Late in the week to make those decisions. They have to give clerical staff time to file the paperwork. Coach Burke has been clear repeatedly and consistently that first team needs dominate. I think of one instance in the 2 1/2 years I’ve been doing this where a Steel need dictated a roster move, 2017 when James Chambers father died and he was in Ireland first BC and then Jack Elliott came down to play DCM for the Steel. And that guess has never been confirmed specifically.
    McCarthy was getting a game to sharpen up. In the past, the Steel game before he knows he gets a Union start, he gets the start. The variable is the new Union GK coach Tim Daly. We have no past evidence of how he will want to do things.
    My current assumption is that McGuire will be the usual Steel starter, because the MLS roster for the Union now lists him as “unavailable” on loan, USL as he was last year. There is an extreme hardship goalkeeper exception that allows him to play for the Union when Blake is away with Jamaica.
    Last detail. The first-team player has to agree to the loan every time. Upon rare occasions they have not, emphasis on rare as I have seen the Sporting Director being forceful and persuasive from too far away to hear what was being said twice. About what I have no idea.

  4. Joel Pterosaur says:

    Entertaining game, well worth viewing. I think I need to get out to a game there sometime once it’s not freezing.

  5. Thanks Tim, enjoyable reading. Nice works as always.

  6. Matt McClain says:

    Hell of a photo there by Rob Simmons during a goal celebration.

  7. el Pachyderm says:

    I have never ever seen a defensive midfielder in Philly and maybe any other MLS game do what Derrick Jones did to Richmond.
    Casual deception to create a channel, explosion into space, use length on the ball to glide past secondary defenders. There was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
    It was extraordinary. It was Viera type skill. It was USL, but it was also THE ENTIRE stacked USL defense.
    Simply fucking exquisite.
    Makes one wonder.

    • Because it was still March there was no activated cable TV box in the press box, so we had no immediate replay available to count exactly how many defenders DJ beat, so my number was memory from live, so to speak.
      If he had A. J. Paterson’s passing range, which none of you have yet seen for yourselves because there are not videos of preseason,, … .
      The press box thought it was a goal of the week candidate, as was Oscar Umar’s strike imo.

  8. Question
    Wasn’t the Steel trying a new fitness approach this year? And if it worked, the Union would use it too?
    I was wondering about it while watching the Union appear to swoon around 60 minutes against Columbus…and now I’m reading about the Steel’s apparent fitness edge in this game.
    So, new process works?!

    • Hi Joe, I asked coach Burke last week about the conditioning experiment. While he said he has seen no data from the performance staff and referred me to them, he commented that he thinks his team had about 70-75 minutes of solid game effort available going into the opener with Richmond, and that he thought the 2018 side was ahead of where the previous two had been at the comparable time.
      Do remember that the pace of play in a USL game is slower than that of an MLS one. I see the difference every time the Steel tap off on Sunday after I have watched the Union at Talen the night before. With that caveat, My eye test of fitness agreed with yours. It will be interesting to hear from the performance people when they are ready to talk.

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