Philadelphia Union II / Report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 3-0 New York Red Bulls ll

Photo: Rob Simmons 

A slick pitch didn’t stop Michee Ngalina’s acrobatic celebration in the rain on Wednesday in Bethlehem.

A pressure-packed New York Red Bulls II defense was controlling the first half until Bethlehem Steel forwards Cory Burke and Fabian Herbers dragged the line to the right in the 37th minute, leaving the pacy Ngalina in acres of space. One quick ball to middleman Adam Najem, a perfectly weighted slide to the left, and a tiny touch on the right foot was all it took. Ngalina’s pinpoint bender into the top corner broke the deadlock and eventually led to a 3-0 home win.

Cue the backflip.

Ngalina’s goal was the only goal the Steel would need to top Red Bulls II, though Herbers and Najem later added to a scoreline that ended 3-0.

“It was a theme of the first half, even the whole game,” Najem said. “We switch the point of attack pretty quick, the other side of the field is wide open. Cory (Burke) and Fabian (Herbers) did good work on the right side, found me and I slipped Michee (Ngalina) in and a great finish, great celebration.”

Ngalina, who has been with the Steel for less than two months, is now the youngest goal scorer (18 years, 40 days) in club history.

“I feel so happy to get my first professional goal,” he said. “Becoming a pro has been a dream of mine for so long and getting my first goal makes me so happy.”

“He hasn’t even had that much time,” Steel coach Brendan Burke said. “Just really impressed with his composure to play the game that fast at 18 years old. He not only looked like a guy that contributed a goal tonight, he looked goal-dangerous the whole time he was on the field.”

It looked to be Bethlehem’s night very early on, when Cory Burke, coming off his first Major League Soccer goal in Montreal over the weekend, clanked one off the crossbar in the opening minute. New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara was fazed, but didn’t face much else until Ngalina’s strike. The visitors responded accordingly, kicked up the pressure in the midfield, and even forced John McCarthy’s first save since April 28th on the other end.

“They got on top of us for a good spell after that,” coach Burke said. “We’ve done this in so many games now, where we create the first good goal-scoring chance of the game, doesn’t fall for us and then there’s some shaky moments. I thought they did a phenomenal job. Their mentality is probably the best part about them. They just press and go and fight and compete, unlike any team we play against.”

Both sides passed with an under 70 percent success rate in the opening 45 minutes and found little room for creativity. Even Ngalina’s seemingly wide-open shot wizzed by two defenders. Things changed a bit out of halftime, though, when New York made a pair of substitutions and Burke kicked it into second gear.

In the 63rd minute, the Steel caught the central defenders in transition and sprinted forward over the midline. Burke cut inside and slid a lengthy through-ball up to Herbers on the right, who pushed it forward and finished across the net from 20 yards out. Burke now has a point in each of his last four starts for both the Steel and Union.

“He’s hungry and plays with an edge,” coach Burke said. “We said that to the whole team before the game. So Cory took a red card against Montreal, who cares. He plays with an edge and that’s what makes him him. He did again today, he had two assists and was just a handful for their back four. You have to account for him in space and if you don’t, you pay for it.”

Burke tacked on a couple more shots on goal and played a full 90 minutes, as he will miss the Union’s upcoming clash with Real Salt Lake on a red card suspension.

New York’s best chance of the night came on the other end of a devilish turn from Ngalina in the box that didn’t produce a shot. At the end of a hard counter, McCarthy was left alone after some fancy footwork in the box. Time seemed to stop from six yards out, until defender Brandon Aubrey delivered a crunching standing tackle and forced the ball out. McCarthy only faced one more shot on frame from there and watched a wide-open header from a set piece ripple the net but get called offside in the 80th minute.

Bethlehem went on to secure its first shutout since July 9, 2017.

“It’s really important,” Aubrey said. “That’s something we talk about, we set a goal for ourselves to get as many clean sheets as we can this year. Obviously when you get clean sheets, you’re going to come away with points and points lead to playoffs and that’s the main goal for us.”

“It’s our first shutout of the year,” coach Burke said. “It came at a really good time against a rival. We knew we were going to get their best effort. They make the game difficult, ugly, and do a fantastic job of pressing, and chopping up the game. For both teams, no one could connect a pass. One of those days where you’ve got to win your duels, show some real grit.”

Najem did just that on the third goal of the evening in stoppage time, where he bodied a defender, gathered a throw-in from Burke and pounded in the finish. On top of scoring, he became the first ever Steel FC player to hit 10 assists.

Ngalina lasted 80 minutes and drew a yellow card in the second half when he threatened to dart into a wide open channel on the left. A hard foul narrowly halted him.

“He’s a quiet kid but he’s young and fast, athletic,” Najem said. “He’s got the confidence to go 1v1 against anybody. It’s a key for these guys for finding him and it’s crucial for his development to continue being confident. It’s good to get his first goal and he’ll continue improving.”


Bethlehem: John McCarthy, Prosper Chiluya, Brandon Aubrey, Matt Mahoney, Oliver Mbaizo, Derrick Jones, Anthony Fontana (Mike Catalano 89′), Adam Najem, Fabian Herbers (Tony Temple 83′), Michee Ngalina (Santi Moar 79′), Cory Burke.

Substitutes not used: Tomas Romero, Chris Nance, Drew Skundrich, Aiden Apodaca.

New York: Ryan Meara, Ethan Kutler, Jordan Scarlett Hassan Ndam, Connor Lade, Chris Lema, Andrew Tinari, Jose Aguinaga, Amando Moreno, Stefano Bonomo, Ben Mines.

Substitutes not used: Scott Levene, Kevin Politz, Lucas Stauffer, Tommy Barlow.


Bethlehem — Brandon Aubrey 21′ yellow (foul)
Bethlehem — Fabian Herbers 41′ yellow (foul)
New York — Andrew Tinari 62′ yellow (foul)
Bethlehem — Matthew Mahoney 87′ yellow (foul)


Bethlehem — Michee Ngalina (Adam Najem) 37′
Bethlehem — Fabian Herbers (Cory Burke) 63′
Bethlehem — Adam Najem (Cory Burke) 90+4′


  1. This gets me more excited than the Union’s win. Why is that?
    Burke giving more reasons to start when he comes back. You watching Jimmy boy? One more bad start from Sapong and you will have zero, zilch, nil even, excuses to not start Burke. Be brave Jimmy. You can do it.

  2. John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

    Mr Jones looked like he was on a mission in this game. Dominated the middle for the Steel.

    • Jones is ready to be back playing with the big team. Honestly I would like all three midfielders here (Jones, Fontana, Najem) to get some MLS time together this year.

  3. The Truth says:

    This is great and all but Curtin is oblivious.

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