USL Match report

USL match report: Bethlehem Steel FC 4 – 1 Atlanta United 2

 Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel Communications

On a beautiful late Sunday afternoon for soccer, an unusual Bethlehem Steel lineup responded well to their coach’s challenge that the last match had not been good enough by tying the club record for most goals scored in a game, beating Atlanta 2 by the score of 4-1.

Bethlehem’s right center back Matt Mahoney opened the scoring in the 16th minute with his head on a well-served corner kick from Chris Nanco, and the Steel would never give up the lead.

The baby five stripes were heavily depleted by their robust representation in the MLS Homegrown game to be played Tuesday evening at Atlanta’s training complex in Marietta, GA. Their bench was thin with only three teenage field players and two goalkeepers. The field players were all making their professional debuts. Reflecting these challenges, Atlanta seemed to be in a low block for the first half hour. The Steel’s 60-40 first half possession stats reflect it.

Once they decided to come out and play, they began to generate some possession and some threats. But they also opened themselves up to a Steel attack that should be described as rampant on the night with 27 shots, 10 on target and four in the net. In this particular match Atlanta 2’s goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt did not succeed in saying, “No.”

Atlanta striker Devin Sandoval, the MLS veteran, took a beautiful bicycle kick at the back post to bring the young five stripes back into the match in the 40th minute, but he was answering an equally beautiful combination that had put his side down 2-0 four minutes previously in the 36th. Brenden Aaronson’s first professional assist had found Aidan Apodaca for the Californian’s first professional goal.

When Bethlehem countered they did so with speed and organization, and when attacking from possession they used good changes of intensity and pace. Drew Skundrich at center mid in particular deserves mention because his denial of the center to the five stripes left James Chambers free to spend a large amount of time in the flank channels creating offense.

The second half saw Bethlehem head coach Brendan Burke make two subs at the hour mark or thereabouts, Faris for Apodaca at striker and Michee Ngalina for Chris Nanco on the right flank. Atlanata coach Scott Donnelly also subbed then, and Bethlehem promptly scored two more. In the 71st Faris pounded home after Propser Chiluya had pursued an improbable series of balls he had no business winning up the field into the offensive third. His last, a contested header, rose into the box to Faris, and the Atlanta onion bag bulged once more.

Less than a minute later the brand new Cameroonian striker found Brenden Aaronson for the Academy man’s first professional goal, and for the first time in recent memory coach Burke gave his captain and seeming wannabe flank midfielder a well deserved curtain call, replacing Chambers in the 73rd minute with Omar Holness. The captain’s armband went to Matt Mahoney.

A note of fond memory and good sportsmanship was displayed by the Steel’s fans, especially the East End Army, when Bethlehem alumnus and Atlanta starter Yosef Samuel suffered what appeared to be a facial laceration in the second minute and had to depart to the locker room for repairs. He was warmly welcomed and applauded as the Lehigh Valley remembered its own.

Bethlehem now lies 10th in the table even with 9th place Charlotte on points but with one fewer win, the first tiebreaker.

Bethlehem next plays away to Richmond at 7:00 PM Saturday, August 4.

In the aforementioned MLS Homegrown game, two Bethlehem alumni, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, and two 2018 players, Matt Real and Anthony Fontana, have been selected for the MLS side at 8:30 PM Tuesday July 31 against Liga MX U-20 side Tigres. The game will be televised on Univision Deportes and streamed live on Twitter.

Three points:

Unusual lineups: The Homegrown match mentioned above influenced lineups for both sides as names often associated with each side were held out to play Tuesday night.Atlanta 2 had only three field players on their bench, all from their academy, all teenagers, all making their professional debuts.

Epps v Gallagher

Match-up: An interesting matchup was first-team Marcus Epps versus Jon Gallagher at Atlanta’s right back since Gallagher is not a defender by trade. Epps led the team in shots on the day, even though he did not score.

Bethlehem firsts:

  • Apodaca’s goal,
  • Aaronson’s assist,
  • Aaronson’s goal,
  • Faris’s assist,
  • Faris’s goal

What was notably not a first was coach Burke’s willingness to trust his reserve players’ character and spirit to rise to a challenge that simply had to be met. He did that several times in 2017 on the road, and upon more than one occasion in 2016, and his squad has always come through. It takes guts and faith, and Burke has them.


Bethlehem: John McCarthy*; Olivier Mbaizo*, Matt Mahoney, Brandon Aubrey, Prosper Chiluya; James Chambers © (Omar Holness 73’), Drew Skundrich; Chris Nanco (Michee Ngalina ’65), Brenden Aaronson**, Marcus Epps*; Aidan Apodaca (Faris Moumbagna 60’). Unused substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Ben Ofiemu, Santi Moar, Tonny Temple** *= first-team player **=academy player

Atlanta: Mitch Hildebrandt; Jack Metcalf ©, Shawn NIcklaw, A. J. Cochran, Jon Gallagher (Victor Pereyra 68’); Chris Goslin; Kevin Barajas, Alessandro Castro (Diego Lopez 65’), Yosef Samuel (Dylan Gaither 6’), Lagos Kunga, Devon Sandoval. Unused Substitutes: Nicholas Caraux, Paul Christensen.


Bethlehem      16th minute       Matt Mahoney (Chris Nanco)
Bethlehem      36th minute      Aidan Apodaca (Brenden Aaronson)
Atlanta             40th minute     Devin Sandoval (Dylan Gaither)
Bethlehem      71st minute       Faris (Prosper Chiluya)
Bethlehem      71st minute       Brenden Aaronson (Faris)


Atlanta           yellow          24th minute           Jack Metcalf (foul)
Atlanta           yellow          73rd minute           A. J. Cochran (foul)

Ref: Eric Tattersall       AR1: Szczepan Dziewa       AR2: Dustin Killick       4th: Robert Ryan Sr.


  1. “trust his reserve players’ character and spirit…” – exactly what Curtin never does. Maybe Burke and Curtin should switch places.

    • The Truth says:

      What’s the worst that could happen? We lose more? Whatev

    • Tim Jones says:

      Yes, Ben, the possibility is there, but in fairness do remember that the mandates to the two are slightly different.
      Brendan Burke is supposed to develop everybody. If players deserving don’t get chances, that’s a mark against him.
      Curtin’s Role is less about player development, more simple.

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