USL Match report

Match report: Nashville SC 1-0 Bethlehem Steel

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel

Bethlehem Steel lost to Nashville SC 1-0 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium.

In the third minute, Nashville striker Michael Cox broke past Bethlehem center back Brandon Aubrey with the ball at his feet from excellent direct service from his center back Liam Doyle, and was brought down from behind outside the penalty area. Aubrey was correctly red carded as the last man back in a goal scoring situation. However referee Brandon Smith awarded a penalty kick for a foul that occurred outside the box. Cox converted to give Nashville the 1-0 lead, and that was enough for the victory.

Matt Mahoney was Steel man of the match

Bethlehem’s tactical response was to play the next 87-plus minutes with three in the back, shutting Nashville out thanks to keeper Jake McGuire, who stoned two breakaways early in the second half. Left back Prosper Chiluya also made a goal saving tackle in the box in each half, and Matt Mahoney played out of position as the sole center back as effectively as if he had been doing it his whole life.

It was an even game, Bethlehem’s ten versus Nashville’s eleven, with the Steel beginning to figure out how to penetrate Nashville’s unusual defensive scheme as the first half wore on and as Steel midfielders became less tied to their official positions on the field. Santi Moar in particular began to penetrate horizontally into the center of the field with the ball at his feet to discomfit Nashville and create opportunities.

Nashville goalkeeping player/coach Matt Pickens should be the Tennesseans’ man of the match for his save on Adam Najem in the 54th minute. He deflected James Chambers’ strong free kick straight to the feet of  Najem at the far post. Najem struck instantly and hard, putting the shot on frame, but Pickens saved at point blank to preserve the shut out and the three points.

Almost immediately thereafter, Bethlehem’s Irish leader exploded into the box with the ball and was leveled down from the side, only for the referee to ignore what Brendan Burke will likely call a deserved penalty kick. The long-term consequences of the play are not yet known, but the captain had his right knee tested on the field by Bethlehem’s trainer and came off about five minutes later. At the end of the match, he had ice wrapped onto the affected area. With Chambers leaving the pitch, Brandon Allen became the Steel’s oldest player at age 24.

It is also worth noting that Adam Najem’s positioning and distributing from defensive center mid was strong.

There are several questions about the lineup Bethlehem will put on the field Sunday, April 8th against Charleston at Goodman Stadium at 3:00 pm (note the different start time).

Three points

Injury progress. Both Omar Holness and Drew Skundrich practiced in all of the area-restricted, reduced-numbers competitive exercises PSP saw at practice last Thursday. The only difference between them and the rest of the group was that after the half field 9 v 9 scrimmage, Skundrich and Holness went off with trainer Umeki Akira (family name first) to do special conditioning and strengthening exercises.

Reappearance. PSP’s Nick Fishman reports that Bethlehem-rostered player Olivier Mbaizo was working with a trainer on the sideline of a Philadelphia Union practice this past Tuesday. The organization continues to have no comment.

Firsts. Nashville scored its first goal and won its first game. Alan Winn made his first professional start. For Bethlehem, Mike Catalano made his first professional start, Aidan Apodaca made his first professional appearance, Drew Skundrich dressed in his first professional game day 18, and Jake McGuire and Brendan Aaronson made their first appearances of 2018. The last first is that first-team loanee Eric Ayuk made his professional debut at right back.

P. S. This writer has watched only five USL games so far this season. In those games he has seen two penalty kicks given that were indisputably fouls, but that occurred clearly, unequivocally, and without controversy outside the box. That error does not occur with that frequency in the world’s division two leagues that are top class in actual performance rather than self-promotion.


Bethlehem: Jake McGuire*; Eric Ayuk*, Matt Mahoney, Brandon Aubrey, Prosper Chiluya; James Chambers © (Aidan Apodaca ’69), Mike Catalano (Brendan Aaronson**); Marcus Epps* (Chris Nanco ’78), Adam Najem*, Santi Moar; Brandon Allen. Unused Substitutes: Tomas Romero**; A. J. Paterson, Drew Skundrich, Tonny Temple **. Unavailable: Omar Holness. *Union, **Academy

Nashville: Matt Pickens; Ryan James (Kosuke Kimura ’71); Bradley Bourgeois, Liam Doyle, Justin Davis; Taylor Washington; Bolu Akinyode, Lebo Moloto (Matt Lagrassa ’63), Michael Reed ©; Alan Winn, Michael Cox (Ropapa Menshah ’70). Unused Substitutes: C. J. Cochran; Josh Hughes, Robin Shroot, Tucker Hume

Scoring Summary

Nashville:           3rd minute            Michael Cox (PK)

Disciplinary Summary

Bethlehem:        3rd minute           Red Card – Brandon Aubrey (last man back)
Bethlehem:      59th minute           Yellow Card – James Chambers (dissent)
Bethlehem:      78th minute           Yellow Card – Adam Najem (professional foul)
Nashville:        79th minute            Yellow Card – Justin Davis
Nashville:        90th +2 minute.     Yellow Card – Matt Lagrassa

REF: Brandon Smith, AR1: Zeno (Gyu Ho) Cho, AR2: Terrence Mull, 4th: Bobby Cordrey


  1. You mad, bro?
    Thanks for write-up but you seem pretty upset. They held down a man whole game? That’s terrific. Hope chambers is OK.

    • WeAreSteel2K18 says:

      He should be mad. I am too. The ref destroyed the game 2 minutes in. It was never a penalty. Steel would have won easily without the red.

  2. Tim Jones says:

    Disgusted, not mad.
    The league needs better refs. End of story.
    Full credit to the Steel for playing them even down a man for virtually the whole game.

    • Tim Jones says:

      And full credit to coach for taking it to them a man down for 87.
      They did not bunker in. Chambers dropped defensively sometimes, but even after he went out, they kept attacking with Najem at DCM, Aaronson for Catalano at CM and Apoda

    • UnionGoal says:

      Tim…since time immortal every athlete has a story of a “bad ref”.
      In Most sports reality is ref had little to absolutely no impact on outcome.
      Same holds true for soccer except 2 events. Pks and red cards. Here you agreed red card legit but disagreed on spot, the ref being closer but hey in speed of moment video replay might have overturned call. Hard to say. In NFL you have to prove indisputably call was wrong…not that it was right.
      Two other points…if McGuire saved Pk they are legitimately still down a man. Nashville chose to bunker up one goal and you say steel dominated. But if Pk saved they don’t bunker and 11_10 outcome likely the same.

      Now if you asked most USL players if league should invest in var or use money to improve salaries–or fields even… well I’m willing to bet outcome of that poll.
      Sounds like despite PK team played well. Credit Nashville for putting aubrey in that spot. Next time maybe gamble is not to go for results and hope McGuire can make save or striker misses.

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