USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 0-0 Louisville City

Photo courtesy Bethlehem Steel

A lineup that featured six teenagers on the pitch by the end of the match held the 2017 USL champions to a clean sheet, as Bethlehem Steel battled conference juggernaut Louisville City FC to a scoreless draw at Goodman Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Only Bethlehem, Indianapolis, and Nashville have held the team from the falls of the Ohio River scoreless so far this season in 14 games.

On a hot, sunny day requiring two hydration breaks, the Steel used head coach Brendan Burke’s growth as a game manager to absorb pressure from a potent veteran side on the first hot day of the year. Bethlehem held only 35% of possession and completed less than 350 passes. Both marks are well short of Burke’s usual rubric for his side.

Nanco versus Louisville

But the elite speed of Chris Nanco and Michee Ngalina seriously exposed Louisville’s left-side defense, making the game much more even in shots — 12-11 Bethlehem — and shots on target — 3-2 Bethlehem.

The game was influenced by a bad accidental collision in the 16th minute between Louisville striker Cameron Lancaster and Steel center back Josh Yaro. Both players were evaluated on the field by the Steel’s team doctor and taken directly to the locker room, each having fallen hard to the ground out of control. Yaro seemed to hit his head, and Lancaster needed support for his left arm and shoulder as they departed to the locker room. Lancaster was then transported to a local hospital for an unspecified upper-body injury.

Bethlehem’s absorb-and-counter strategy threatened the Louisville defense more than once, as Nanco easily ran by Louisville left center back Paco Craig, forcing some well-read, decisive interventions from goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh. Michee Ngalina also was able to exploit Craig for pace, although with less dramatic results since he was usually less central. Louisville coach James O’Connor subbed Craig out for Alexis Soahy in the 58th minute, and shifted the more pacy Sean Totsch from center back out to control Louisville’s left side.

The other second half Louisville substitution significantly impacted play as well. Brian Ownby came on in the 63rd minute for Niall McCabe on the left flank. Ownby still has considerable pace, and before the right side of the Steel’s defense — Matt Mahoney at right back and Ben Ofeimu at right center back — adapted, the former Richmond Kicker produced one of Louisville’s two best chances to score within his first three minutes. It was a breakaway dribble to the end line and then to the near post that John McCarthy blocked out of bounds by the post.

In the 72nd, from the endline again, Ownby found Speedy Williams trailing play on the edge of the box for a thunderous strike that was fortunately right at McCarthy who saved it flawlessly.

Both teams wore down from the heat and their efforts. For the Steel in the last ten minutes Drew Skundrich (twice), Matt Mahoney. and Ben Ofeimu each cleared chances that had the potential for Steel disaster.

When the referee ended play, the Steel had left it all on the pitch having executed a well-judged game plan effectively.

Three Points:

A significant shoulder: The long-term significance of the match for the Eastern Conference will be how long Cameron Lancaster is off the pitch. Luke Spencer did not travel due to a leg injury, and Lancaster has been in excellent form recently. So Louisville’s scoring punch has been reduced. For how long will be key.

Player development, athletic and academic: On a lighter note, by the end of the game Jeremy Rafanello and Tonny Temple had joined Anthony Fontana and Ben Ofeimu on the pitch from the Academy. Ofeimu and Temple are the ones who did not receive their high school diplomas thirty hours before.  It is also worth mentioning that all three Steel substitutes on the day came from the Academy.

Full marks! In addition to the late game clearances mentioned above, Drew Skundrich deserves a mention in dispatches for a tireless work rate, and intelligently reading the next fire needing to be extinguished or the next connecting pass needed to move the attack forward. It is too soon to know whether he has the capacity to affect an MLS match, but he certainly impacted a good USL one. We trust he got extra pizza on the ride home.

The Steel travel away to FC Cincinnati this coming Wednesday at 7:30 pm at Nippert Stadium, from the Louisville frying pan into the Cincinnati fire.


BSFC: John McCarthy*; Matt Mahoney, Josh Yaro* (Ben Ofeimu** 19’), Brandon Aubrey, Matt Real*; James Chambers ©, Drew Skundrich; Michee Ngalina (Tonny Temple** 77’), Anthony Fontana*, Santi Moar; Chris Nanco (Jeremy Rafanello** 64’). Substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Prosper Chiluya, A. J. Paterson, Mike Catalano,

LCFC: Greg Ranjitsingh; Kyle Smith, Sean Totsch, Paco Craig (Alexis Soahy 58’), Pat McMahon;, Paolo DelPiccolo, Speedy Williams, Oscar Jimenez; Niall McCabe (Brian Ownby 63’), Cameron Lancaster (Magnus Rasmussen 19’), Ilia Ilic. Substitutes: Tim Dobrowolski, Chris Hubbard;, , George Davis IV, Shaun Francis.




BSFC: 45+3rd Yellow, Anthony Fontana (foul)
LCFC: 48th , Yellow, Paco Craig, (foul)
BSFC: 58th, Yellow, James Chambers (foul)
LCFC: 90th, Yellow, Pat McMahon (persistent infringement)


  1. UnionGoal says:

    Good recap, Tim.
    I watched first half on ESPN+ while I did household chores. Heat definitely played part in pace…very slow.
    At one point McCarthy overemotional and over_reacting to play right before. This seems to be one facet I really don’t like about the Blake backup and had hoped he had overcome these blowups. At least it didn’t lead to goals against as I’ve seen with a few of his past brew ups. How is Romero under stress?

  2. Tim Jones says:

    Some points about Tomas Romero and Kris Shakes, the fellows who backup the Steel goalkeepers.
    The change in goalkeeper coaches at the first team level has changed how the goalkeepers are being handled, subtlety. I have not.explored the point carefully.
    Jamaica is not in Russia, so Andre Blake has many fewer absences than in past years.
    Coach Burke has characterized Shakes and Romero as being in a very close competition.
    Both are listed with the U-19s who hold the third seed for the national in the Development Academy playoffs, Romero has started 13 and Shakes 6 when I last looked.

  3. UnionGoal says:

    Thank you. So if Blake goes out or otherwise unavailable who do you want on bench backing up McCarthy?

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