USL - Bethlehem Steel FC

Steel player analysis after two matches in four days

Photo Credit: Bethlehem Steel

Bethlehem Steel have played two matches in the last four days, facing the Charleston Battery at home on Saturday night and the Charlotte Independence last night. Last Saturday, the Steel beat Charleston for the first time in the club’s short history, 3-1, but fell to Charlotte last night, 2-1. It was a quick turnaround for the club, and the two matches were very different. On Saturday, the Steel were pressuring the Battery, taking chances and capitalizing on chances and mistakes, and they had an older squad. On Tuesday, the Steel were very slow to start, sat back and let the Independence take control, didn’t create many chances, and had a very young squad.

Carlos Miguel Coronel started both matches on Saturday and Tuesday. This season, Coronel has been impressive, stopping two penalty kicks and looking pretty solid with his hands. The goal he gave up in the second half on Saturday was more of a desperate scrape put together by a losing Battery squad, but otherwise he had a solid night. Last night was a bit of a different story for Coronel. He was busy all game and both goals he gave up to the Independence were weak as he was out of position, off his line and obviously unable to stop the shots. He had a good save at the beginning of the second half, showing off his strong hands, but most of the night he got lucky as Charlotte hit shots wide or over the crossbar.

Captain Fabinho scores the winner on his Steel FC debut

Fabinho only made one appearance in these two matches, his first match for Bethlehem on Saturday night against Charleston. He had a strong night on the sideline, generating plenty of goal scoring opportunities for the Steel. With years of experience under his belt, Fabinho was able to help settle down the younger Bethlehem players, who often have some ups and downs at the beginnings of matches and allow goals in the first quarter. His calm demeanor made him the perfect person to take the penalty kick on Saturday to score Bethlehem’s second goal of the night.

Matt Real took over both Fabinho’s position and captain’s armband on Tuesday night. Real was a real threat on the sidelines, especially towards the end of the match as he created chances for the Steel to get a late equalizer against the Independence. However, Charlotte peppered Bethlehem’s defense early on and the young Steel squad faltered early, allowing a goal in the 29th minute. Was it Real’s fault? No, but as the captain and one of the more experienced defenders in that back line, Real should be out there trying to settle his squad down to avoid the mistakes that allow for first quarter goals.

On the right side, Issa Rayyan was definitely notable as he got the start against both the Battery and the Independence. On Saturday, Rayyan helped create tons of opportunities with some beautiful crosses, including the one that allowed Przybylko to score his first after a bit of scrambling. On Tuesday, he wasn’t shining as brightly as Bethlehem would have hoped and it’s rare when you don’t see him standing out on the pitch during a game. While he didn’t have a bad match, he just wasn’t his usual play creating self. Unfortunately, Rayyan was injured just before halftime and was subbed off in favor of Cole Turner.

Both Zach Zandi and Michee Ngalina played very well on Saturday, earning an assist each. Both Zandi and Ngalina are adept playmakers and can position themselves well on the field, which is what we saw against the Battery. Ngalina had some great chances in both matches as he started in and played all 90 minutes against the Battery and the Independence. But on Tuesday, Zandi didn’t get the start as Burke opted for a much younger Steel squad against Charlotte, and Zandi was subbed on for the young Jack de Vries in the 57th. However, youth is Bethlehem’s bread and butter and de Vries worked hard to help move the ball up the field and create chances, including this amazing side-foot pass.

It’s safe to say that Kacper Przybylko didn’t earn PSP’s Player of the Week and a spot on the USL Championship’s Team of the Week for nothing after Saturday’s match. Przybylko scored two of the Steel’s three goals against Charleston and played a great game. His first goal may have looked like a scrappy fight in front of the goal, but Battery defensive blunders aside, Przybylko had placed himself quite strategically and was able to read to play well enough to bury the ball in the back of the net. His second goal was an even bigger example of how well he can position himself on the field, as he was just onside in his own half and able to beat two defenders by making a long run directly to the goal with the ball. He has made a few appearances for the Steel already this season, but he looked to be in top form on Saturday.

Faris at the end of a bull rush.

Faris rarely has an off night as he uses his speed and strength to win balls and score goals. This means that he’s also rarely on the bench, starting all five matches he’s played in this season, including both Saturday and Tuesday. At 18 years old, Faris is already on track to have his best season with the Steel yet, scoring two goals in five matches, compared to three goals scored in 15 matches played in 2018. It’s because he’s a strong, agile and tactical player that can dismantle a defense and bury a ball in the back of the net. Faris often reminds me of a young CJ Sapong, using strength and skill to work his way into the box to score, or at least come close. While he didn’t score against Charleston or Charlotte, he did bull rush down the left side to completely take Charleston’s defense apart and hit his shot just wide. Against Charlotte he showed off his fancy footwork while carrying the ball up the sideline a few times. Faris is a strong player and a staple in Bethlehem’s lineup because he continues to play so well.

The Steel will play once again this week at home in the first Union-Steel doubleheader on Saturday against the Indy Eleven at 4pm.

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