USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 2-1 North Carolina FC

Photos courtesy USL & Steel Communications

Bethlehem Steel FC defeated North Carolina FC 2-1 Saturday night down south in a comeback win.

The Steel spotted North Carolina FC a goal off a corner kick in the 16th minute, were outplayed in the first half, but struck twice on counters in the 83rd and 85th to win on the road against a side that had been unbeaten in its last four matches in all competitions.

“This team doesn’t know when it’s dead, to be honest,” Bethlehem captain James Chambers said after the game.

The combined ages of the Steel’s two goal scorers, Ben Ofiemu (17 years 8 months) and Michee Ngalina (18 years 2 months), barely surpasses that of their young head coach Brendan Burke (35 years, 7 months). For morello introduce Big Ben see below in “three points.”

Both teams played openly spaced, box-to-box attacking soccer. North Carolina held the clear edge in possession. And had they had their shooting boots on and not faced Steel keeper Jake McGuire, their 18 shots would have meant some goals from the run of play and a different result.

But the speed and creativity of the same Steel offensive group that won in the second half at Indianapolis, came through again. Michee Ngalina on the left flank, Aidan Apodaca — and then Chris Nanco — up top, Fabian Herbers on the right, Santi Moar at attacking center mid — and then on the right when Herbers went off, and Adam Najem at center mid — and then attacking center mid when Drew Skundrich relieved Herbers — wore down the Carolina defense with pace,  precision, and superior endurance.

At first, the Carolinia defense matched and outdid the Steel’s attacking pace and  skill. But as they wore down the side from the “research triangle” never dropped into a bunker to protect their lead. That tactical non-adjustment cost them three points.

The Lazarus comeback means Bethlehem remains above the playoff line in the eastern conference in 7th place, on 17 points with 5 wins as the first tie-breaker . Next the team hosts conference leader Louisville City FC at 5 PM Saturday June 9th at Goodman Stadium.

Three points and a footnote:

A game day 16, not 18: The lineup pickers shook up the previous few games’ continuity in the defense, revisited the highly creative, small, fast offense that beat Indianapolis, and for whatever reason sent the Steel down south without a reserve goalkeeper and only five field player subs.

The defensive shakeup seems to telegraph Olivier Mbaizo might get a first team start against Richmond Tuesday in the Open Cup. Events in Atlanta virtually guarantee Derrick Jones will see first team time against Toronto next Friday. We are guessing of course.

Ben Ofiemu in white

Big Ben! Defender Ben Ofeimu made his Bethlehem Steel FC debut tonight, starting at center back. Ofeimu becomes the 19th product of the Philadelphia Union Academy to make his debut with Steel FC. Ofeimu also became just the sixth Academy member to debut by starting, joining Auston Trusty, Matt Real, Tomas Romero, Dawson McCartney and Michael Pellegrino. With his goal in the 83rd minute, Ofeimu’s goal was not only his first USL and Steel score but it was the first goal by a player then enrolled in the Union Academy to score for Steel FC. Ofeimu is the youngest goal scorer in Steel FC history, finding the back of the net at just 17 years and 8 months.

The captain: James Chambers played the full 90 without needing a sub and provided his usual incisive and subtle distribution. Drew Skundrich’s appearance at the end helped cover the defensive ground in the center that the captain will cover later on when he’s back to non-stop running defensively in final stoppage time.

A Spanish footnote: Santi Moar had two assists playing at attacking central midfielder and then on the right flank.


BSFC: Jake McGuire*; Matt Mahoney, Ben Ofeimu**, Brandon Aubrey, Matt Real*; James Chambers ©, Adam Najem*; Fabian Herbers* (Drew Skundrich 61’), Santi Moar, Michee Ngalina (Mike Catalano 90+1’); Aidan Apodaca (Chris Nanco 45+1’). Unused Substitutes: Prosper Chiluya, A. J. Johnson. *Union player **Academy player

NCFC: Alex Tambakis; D. J. Taylor, Conner Tobin, Michael Harrington, Peabo Doue; Marcel Kandziora (Tiyi Shipelane 87’), Graham Smith, Kyle Bekker, Austin da Luz; Ulrich Ewolo (Marios Lomis 68’), Daniel Rios (Dre Fortune 80’). Unused Substitutes: Cameron Steele; Austin Guerrero, Aaron Guillen, Wullito Fernandes.


NC – 16’ Peabo Doue (Kyle Bekker)
BST – 83’ Ben Ofeimu (Santi Moar)
BST – 85’ Michee Ngalina (Santi Moar)


BST – 25’ Adam Najem (Yellow Card)
NC – 57’ Conor Tobin (Yellow Card)
NC – 67’ Michael Harrington (Yellow Card)
NC – 89’ Austin da Luz (Yellow Card)


Ref: Elvis Osmanovic     AR1: Ryan Graves     AR2: Ben Pilgrim     4TH: Forrest Ambrose


  1. Good stuff. Love seeing new players getting time to develop with the Steel

  2. No Jones?

    • Tim Jones says:

      Correct, Cpfief, no Derrick Jones.
      I am not surprised because I expect him to start Tomorrow, Tuesday against the Kickers.
      Saturday night to Tuesday night is a really short recovery period, and it is followed by a game Friday.

      • I think he was expected to start on Tuesday, but not anymore. Now Bedoya and Medunjanin will be starting since they can’t play the next MLS game.

  3. It appears our academy can produce CBs. Love seeing all the young dudes on this team play well. The roster (while I’d argue is still a little small), seems to have a nice balance of youth and young vets.

    • Tim Jones says:

      Ofeimu did a good job.
      Credit their scouting network, as well.
      The Steel have Father Time as captain, but the next veterans are all in their second professional seasons: Aubrey, Mahoney, Nanco, Moar, Holness has yet to play. All the rest on the USL roster are 1st year pros.
      The roster is currently at the league minimum, 12.
      Brenden Aaronson would count as a vet were he healthy.
      The only Union guys present consistently enough to be considered have been Jones, Najem and McGuire. Herbers is on the cusp. McKenzie and Real were supposed to be, but Fabinho and then Marquez and Yaro got hurt.

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