USL - Bethlehem Steel FC / USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 2-0 Ottawa Fury FC

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel

Santi Moar’s first-half penalty, cool and collected, epitomized Bethlehem Steel’s 2-0 victory over Ottawa Fury on Wednesday evening at Goodman Stadium.

Moar, who now leads the club in scoring this year, bagged a brace en route to Bethlehem’s fifth win in six matches. Four of those wins have been shutouts, and Brendan Burke’s side now sits four points clear of the playoff line in 5th place of the United Soccer League Eastern Conference.

“We are in good form while the group keeps changing,” Burke said after the match. “Credit this to all the guys that have been a part of this through each game, but also the guys that are coming into it and buying into the momentum and mentality to make sure we don’t give much away.”

Right from the jump, the hosts took control of the ball and stretched Ottawa out to the wings. With Moar on the left and Marcus Epps on the right, Bethlehem ran right at the defense and spun cross after cross into the box. After just 16 minutes, the Fury back line stepped high to cut off passes and paid the price. Epps slipped one through and Moar lifted it over the charging keeper to ripple the net and make the score 1-0.

Just past the half-hour mark, Moar stepped up to the penalty spot after another dangerous cross from the left connected with an Ottawa hand in the box. He sent the keeper diving the wrong way to notch his second brace of the season.

“We’re always looking for those guys to find isolation,” Burke said of the wingers. “The way [Ottawa] set up in the first half I think played into our hands a little bit. They played a winger out there who, quite frankly, couldn’t deal with [Moar]. So that gets him onto the next level and then he’s running at a center back, which he’s always going to win. When he got him in transition, the poor kid didn’t have a chance.”

Moar joins the red-hot Cory Burke as just the second player in Bethlehem Steel history to record multiple braces in a season.

We just started the game right and we had two early goals that helped us control the game the entire time,” Moar said. “It was a good team effort and I was fortunate enough to get the two goals.”

That effort wasn’t just in the final third. All three forwards continually tracked back to defend and regain possession in the midfield. It led to the Steel seeing almost 60 percent of the ball in the first half and completing 265 total passes. Moar liked it almost as much as scoring.

“For us, the guys on top, the strikers, the wingers, we also enjoy it a lot when we get clean sheets. Obviously it looks better for the goalkeeper and the defenders, but I’m happy for them as well that we are getting those clean sheets. They are helping us get results.”

For much of the second half, sitting comfortably with a two-goal lead, the Steel dictated play and deflected any pressure quickly. Ottawa’s first real chance came in the 67th minute, when a set piece led to John McCarthy blocking away a header in the box. Before it, he didn’t face a single shot on target.

“I think the way we start games, the past five or six games we’ve done really well by pressuring them really hard,” defender Matt Mahoney said. “To get on the front foot early, we call it possession defending, when it comes back out, we jam it back down their throats.”

Mahoney, normally situated at right center back, had a go at the left-hand side for just the third time in his career. Aside from “using your left foot a bit more,” the change wasn’t noteworthy and back line was running on all cylinders — so much so that in the second half, outside backs Matt Real and Oliver Mbaizo led a couple of the attacks. At one point near the 77th minute, Mbaizo totally switched ends and made a quick overlapping run into the box on the left. When the ball found his foot, he laced a pitch-perfect delivery to the back post, where Josh Yaro careened it off the crossbar from close range. Real sent in a similar ball in the 65th, but no one was home.

Aside from Yaro frantically clearing one off the line in the 87th, Ottawa mustered no further chances in the match. McCarthy was tested just once and watched nine more shots go off target.

The goals are what Burke expects. The defense is what pleases him most.

“When we are good, we are defending from the front because we talk about it being 11 guys. I harp on it and our poor No. 9s, I chase them around the field but the reality is that’s what it is going to take at the next level and we are trying to ingrain that into these guys and they have really bought in. When you drop into the midfield, you have to highlight Drew Skundrich’s ground coverage  — I think he changes our ability to press higher up the field in a big way. On top of being a high IQ guy, he covers so much ground.”

Bethlehem will make its first-ever trip to Nashville on Saturday, taking on Nashville SC at 8:30 p.m.

Three points

Drew Skundrich: Coach Burke made a point to mention the young midfielder during interviews and he absolutely deserves the recognition. He was shifty on the ball tonight, making clean turns and crisp passes throughout the match. He can defend and seemingly knows where to be at all times. Don’t forget the name.

Mores crosses: The Steel have too much pace to not fully utilize the wing play. Both sides were very active tonight, but too many crosses went into the box without being claimed — almost like they weren’t expected at all. They should all be expected.

Goal differential: One quick look at the USL table and the “14” next to Bethlehem stands out. It’s a very positive goal difference and Indy Eleven, also sitting on 39 points, is 10 behind. Ottawa’s is a staggering -7, despite being in the final playoff spot at the moment. As far as playoff seeding goes, each goal matters a lot and each miss matters a lot. Luckily Yaro was bailed out in this one.

Lineups

Bethlehem
John McCarthy; Matt Real, Matt Mahoney, Josh Yaro, Olivier Mbaizo; James Chambers, Drew Skundrich; Santi Moar (Brandon Aubrey 89’), Brenden Aaronson (Chris Nanco 83’), Marcus Epps; Aidan Apodaca (Faris 72’).

Substitutes not used: Tomas Romero, Ben Ofeimu, Prosper Chiluya, AJ Paterson.

Ottawa
Maxime Crepau; Clement Bayiha (Eddie Edward 45’), David Edgar, Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, Onua Obasi; Chris Mannella (Tony Taylor 45’), Jeremy Lapare, Cristian Portilla (Adonijah Reid 61’), Kevin Oliveira; Carl Haworth, Steevan Dos Santos.

Substitutes not used: David Monsalve, Nana Attakora.

Goal summary

Bethlehem: – 16th minute Santi Moar (Marcus Epps)
Bethlehem: – 32nd minute Santi Moar (PK)

Discipline summary

Ottawa – 31’ Thomas Meilleur-Giguere (Yellow Card)
Bethlehem – 41’ Drew Skundrich (Yellow Card)
Ottawa – 49’ Tony Taylor (Yellow Card)
Ottawa – 58’ Cristian Portilla (Yellow Card)
Bethlehem – 73’ Santi Moar (Yellow Card)
Bethlehem – 84’ Josh Yaro (Yellow Card)

Ref: Jon Freemon   AR1: Szczepan Dziewa    AR2: Katarzyna Wasiak   4TH: Patrick Casey

One Comment

  1. Does anyone know what’s up with Najem? Is he still with the Afghanistan national team?

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