USL Match report

Bethlehem Steel FC’s season ends with 2-0 defeat to Louisville

Photo courtesy E. M. Dash Photography and Louisville City FC

Bethlehem Steel had no answer for wily USL veteran Brian Ownby Saturday night, whose brace for Louisville City eliminated Steel FC from the playoffs 2-0.

They were his first goals of the season.

Bethlehem attacked the defending champions from the opening tap, but mistimed runs in the box in the first 30 minutes prevented scoring from some good service. Steel looked strong on the right with the combination of Olivier Mbaizo and Chris Nanco, who had started in place of the injured Michee Ngalina.

Ownby’s first goal came in the 34th minute, when a grass-cutting cross from Oscar Jimenez on the left flank beat a jumping Mbaizo.

In response, Chris Nanco almost immediately secured the Steel’s second-best chance of the night. After cutting into the box, Nanco fired with his left forcing Louisville keeper Greg Ranjitsingh had to tip the strike over the bar.

Bethlehem’s intensity and pace forced Louisville to grab and tug the entire game, a defensive approach permitted with little interference from the officials. Louisville had a possession advantage over Bethlehem in the first half, but the feel of the game was even until the 59th minute.

At that point, offensive effort caught the Steel up field out of their defensive shape. Louisville midfielder Niall McCabe spotted Ownby even with and between center backs Ben Ofiemu and Brandon Aubrey. Keeper Jake McGuire rushed out, but the former Richmond Kickers striker hit a passing shot into the open space and Louisville was ahead by two.

Bethlehem gamely went after the goals they needed, but the Kentuckians dropped nine men into two lines at the 18 and the top of the D and absorbed pressure every time the Steel gained possession.

In the 77th minute, Santi Moar unleashed a dipping blast after penetrating the center of the pitch. But it hit the top of the crossbar rather than the bottom, and with the carom went the visitors’ best chance to score.

Any playoff system means only one side ends its season with an immediate sense of accomplishment. That truth is unfortunate because the 2018 Bethlehem Steel season remains historic even though it ended in disappointment.

  • They won the first playoff game ever taken by either themselves or the Union.
  • They won 15 games, 14 in the regular season.
  • They finished their highest in the table, sixth.
  • They scored the most goals in their short history.
  • And they never duplicated a starting lineup for the entire season, finishing a perfect 36 for 36, the first time there was no duplication even once.
Several Points:

The farm team & the first team: Last Tuesday USMNT U20s coach Tab Ramos called up three players from the Philadelphia Union, Matt Real, Anthony Fontana and Mark McKenzie. All three ultimately will go to Florida for the CONCACAF tournament that qualifies four for the U20 World Cup next year. Real and Fontana left Tuesday, giving others their slots for the Louisville game. McKenzie will travel south only after the first team’s playoff run is completed.

Injured: Chris Nanco played magnificently in place of the injured Michee Ngalina. Sufficiently so that Louisville shifted its attention to the right outside channel away from Santi Moar on the left at halftime. But he does not quite have Ngalina’s ball control in the attack. Had Ngalina been threatening Louisville’s Jimenez on Louisville’s left, the noted service wizard would have been busier defending, and “supersub” Nanco would have been available as the substitute for Faris.

Truth: Even the Louisville tv color man had the decency to admit on air that the “foul” for which Ben Ofeimu was given a yellow card in the 87th  minute was a clean tackle, not a foul.

BSFC’s left back: Louisville’s right winger George Davis IV had a fairly quiet game for a player of his quality. The only other time Matt Mahoney had played left back for the Steel was in his professional debut as injury relief for Matt Real. Defensively, coach Burke’s choice was quite successful.

Golden Shutout: Louisville striker Cameron Lancaster set a record for goals scored in the USL with 25 in 2018, and added a 26th last weekend against Indy. He was shutout, frustrated and subbed off in the 80th thanks to Aubrey and Ofeimu.

Wait till next year:15-year-old Selmir Miscic dressed for the first time with Bethlehem tonight, but did not see the pitch.


Bethlehem: Jake McGuire*; Olivier Mbaizo*, Matt Mahoney, Ben Ofeimu**, Brandon Aubrey; James Chambers ©, Drew Skundrich; Chris Nanco, Brenden Aaronson* (Omar Holness 74’), Santi Moar; Faris (Aidan Apodaca 59’) . Unused Substitutes: Tomas Romero**; Prosper Chiluya, A.J. Paterson, Selmir Miscic, Mike Catalano.
* – first-team player, ** = academy player.

Louisville: Greg Ranjitsingh; Kyle Smith, Alexis Souahy, Paco Craig, Oscar Jimenez; Niall McCabe, Paolo Del Piccolo ©; George Davis IV (Sean Totsch 88’), Ilia Ilic (Speedy Williams 72’), Brian Ownby; Cameron Lancaster (Luke Spencer 80’). Unused Substitutes: Tim Dobrowolski; Shaun Francis, Magnus Rasmussen, Richard Ballard.


Louisville        34th Brian Ownby (Oscar Jimenez)
Louisville        59th Brian Ownby (Niall McCabe)


Bethlehem      58th Yellow – Santi Moar
Louisville        59th Yellow – Kyle Smith
Louisville        77th Yellow – Brian Ownby
Bethlehem      83rd Yellow –Olivier Mbaizo
Bethlehem      87th Yellow – Ben Ofeimu


  1. I got the free trial of ESPN + just to watch this. The best part of the match was just listening to Burke berate the officials. At one point he asked the fourth if it was the ref’s first match. Classic. I feel bad for the guys, but they had a great season and should be extremely proud. Good on ya BSFC!
    Thanks Tim for all your hard work. I really enjoyed reading about the future of the Union from you.

    • The part about Burke’s in-game quotes I do not like is that his were consistently public but Coach Hackworth’s were not.
      The two body languages were the same and the frequencies of referee beration were similar.
      Management of sound was not even-handed but highly favorable to the home team, as you would expect from the home team broadcast.

  2. WeAreSteel2K18 says:

    Tim, thanks for your coverage all season. I know to most readers BSFC is just the “Triple-A” team of the Union but to us in the Valley, they are our club. We’re proud of them. Even last night they were in the game. If we had been able to bury one of those early chances, who knows…

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