USL Match report

Match report: Swope Park Rangers 3-4 Bethlehem Steel

Photo: screenshot from ESPN+

Before the Philadelphia Union staged its late-game comeback to beat Dallas 2-1 in stoppage time, Bethlehem Steel staged one of its own to beat Swope Park Rangers 4-3.

Union injury rehab loanee Sergio Santos collected the rebound from a James Chambers shot — itself the consequence of a rebound from a Michee Ngalina shot via Faris — and easily tapped home for the win at 90 + 2:30 of extra time. The rebound was one of several surrendered by not quite 17-year-old goalkeeper Max Trejo who was making his professional debut for the Rangers.

Swope Park scored all their goals from the run of play, a brace from right winger Jerome Ngom Mbekeli in the 45th and 57th minutes, and the opener tapped home in the 19th minute by striker Ethan Vanacore-Decker on a wonderful assist from left winger Killian Colombie.

Bethlehem’s first two came from corner kicks.  First, Faris, assisted by James Chambers and Ben Ofeimu, tapped home a goalmouth scramble after a corner kick in the 27th minute to equalize.  Then Ben Ofeimu headed home directly from a Chambers-served corner in the 73rd to draw within one. The next two came from the run of play.  Matt Real drove a powerful cross off the head of Mark Segbers to chip Trejo unintentionally to the far upper corner, and Santos won it at the death.

In the first half Swope Park had the better of possession 58 to 42, and the match was end to end.  The Rangers seemed slightly faster to the ball in the midfield, and with Bethlehem pressing forward hard first to equalize and then to go ahead, the Steel midfielders were repeatedly caught forward and countered.  Mbekeli’s pace and power were real threats down the Rangers’ right flank. And coach Burke’s pregame description of Swope as smoothly technical is deadly accurate.

After the break Bethlehem seemed better able to sustain the ball and attack when they gained it.  Whether they had superior conditioning and determination, or whether Swope Park was deliberately protecting a two-goal lead is unclear.  There is no doubt that the introduction of Santos in the 60th minute boosted Bethlehem’s ability to drive attacks deep into the Kansans’ defensive third. He seemed to be playing as a number ten at the top of a diamond at times. He was definitely a handful for his defender.

Walter Cortes came on for Anthony Fontana at one of the central midfield spots in the 77th minute and contributed well in an extremely fast-paced game while performing a new role.

The Rangers high-pressed high up the field in the first portion of the first half.  As energy flagged and the score mounted, tactics changed allowing Chambers to move forward more in the attack.  Center backs Ofeimu and academy man Cole Turner did not find vertical entry passes underneath the Swope Park restraining line, but they did put them over the top for Faris and Michee Ngalina to use to threaten Swope’s defense.

It needs to be said that the defensive effort from the two Bethlehem strikers continued for the entire game and included judicious, important forays back to join the defensive eight in moments of need. The other strikers on the pitch were not as relentlessly dedicated to defending. That talk they had together before Pittsburgh remains noticeable.

Bethlehem next play Saturday, April 13th at Talen Energy Stadium against perennial eastern conference powerhouse the Charleston Battery at 7:30 PM.

Three points:

Comparing player development projects: 

SWP’s website’s roster lists players signed to “academy contracts” (the contracts preserve the player’s amateur standing), while Bethlehem’s does not.  Of the Rangers’ listed 22, seven are such amateurs. Four amateurs have played actual games for Bethlehem this season alongside its professional 14, along with two reserve goalkeepers. The USLC requires 12 fully professional players.

Compare Bethlehem and Swope Park

The Swope Park amateurs have been removed
USLC Roster
(See above)
Av Age
Age range
(High & low
Bethlehem1420.44.5 years9
Swope Park1521.67.7 years7

Bethlehem’s roster average age is younger, and its age range is more tightly focused than Swope. (Think Tanner.) Otherwise, the two efforts seem quite similar: usefulness for the first team, opportunities for academy development, stepping stones between an academy and MLS.

Big Ben: When Bethlehem are behind and Ben Ofeimu scores, so far in his career that means Steel FC are going to win. (Tonight, and June 2, 2018 in North Carolina.)

From the Captain: “I think [the match] was entertaining for the neutral to be honest. I don’t think we were great; I think we were pretty poor to be honest, but to come on the road and have a comeback like that is pretty good. We’ve been known to do that in the past. We have that never-say-die attitude and it’s great to see these lads coming in and adopting that approach.”


Bethlehem (4-2-2-0-2, L-R): Matt Freese*; Matt Real*, Ben Ofeimu, Cole Turner^, Issa Rayyan; James Chambers (c), Chavany Willis (Sergio Santos* 60′); Zach Zandi, Anthony Fontana* (Walter Cortes ’77); Faris, Michee Ngalina. Unused Substitutes: Kris Shakes^; Jamoi Topey, Steve Kingue, Saed Diaz, Patrick Bohui.  * = Union player; ^ = Academy player

Swope Park (4-3-3): Max Trejo; Aleksander, Graham Smith*, Camden Riley, Mark Segbers; Felipe Hernandez, Jacob Davis (Wan Kuzain* 60′), Ayyoub Allach; Killian Colombie (Will Little 80′), Ethan Vanacore-Decker (Wilson Harris 77′), Jerome Ngom Mbekeli. Unused Substitutes: John Pulskamp; Kaveh Rad, Rassambek Akhmatova, William Okopu Mensah. * = Sporting player


Swope Park     19th                  Ethan Vanacore-Decker (Killian Colombine)

Bethlehem      27th                 Faris (Ben Ofeimu, James Chambers)

Swope Park     44th                  Jerome Ngom Mbekeli (Felipe Hernandez)

Swope Park     57th                  Jerome Ngom Mbekeli (Jacob Davis)

Bethlehem      73rd                  Ben Ofeimu (James Chambers)

Bethlehem      78th                  Mark Segbers – Own Goal

Bethlehem      90th+3            Sergio Santos


Bethlehem      24th      Yellow             Issa Rayyan (professional foul)

Swope Park     49th      Yellow             Camden Riley (professional foul)

Bethlehem      64th      Yellow             Anthony Fontana (foul)

Bethlehem      68th      Yellow             Matt Real (foul)

Swope Park     70th      Yellow             Mark Segbers (foul)

Bethlehem      90th+1  Yellow/Red    Matt Real (professional foul)


Ref: Mike Lavergne     AR1: Truman Berghall      AR2: Jack Ryan-Feldman     4TH: Brian Bauer


One Comment

  1. Great effort from the Steel. I was so excited to see them pull out the win. Especially Santos’ smart reaction goal off the awful rebound from their keeper

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