USL Match report

Match report: Charlotte Independence 2-1 Bethlehem Steel

Photo courtesy Bethlehem Steel

Both teams playing Tuesday night at the Sportsplex in Mathews, North Carlonia outside of Charlotte had played the Saturday evening before in Philadelphia and New York.

Ultimately, the older and more experienced team — and the one with fewer total available roster resources — handled the 70-hour turnabout-and-travel more effectively, as the Charlotte Independence beat Bethlehem Steel FC 2-1.

Until several minutes after James Chambers came on as the third Steel substitute in the 63rd minute, the effort the Steel gave was tired, slow, disjointed, choppy, and lackluster.

Charlotte completely dominated the first five minutes keeping Bethlehem pinned deep in their defensive third. Bethlehem did not cross midfield until late in the fifth minute.

Only in the 16th minute did Independence goalkeeper Curtis Anderson have to take control of a cross, from Faris.

Bethlehem would manage to break up attacks and start passing sequences in the central channel, but did not have options wide, especially on the left, and would lose the ball before they developed any meaningful threats.

Former Bethlehem stalwart Hugh Roberts, now a fixture at center back in Carolina’s Queen City, blocked a Michee Ngalina shot in the 26th minute. It was the first time there was a hint of threat from the visitors.

Four minutes later, Issa Rayyan fouled deep in the defensive right channel. Charlotte’s Mark Hill struck the free kick off the top of the near post, caroming it to Andrew Guttman waiting at the far post who slotted home in the melee.

In the 42nd minute Jorge Herrera was open, had beaten Steel keeper Carlos Miguel Coronel, but had his shot blocked by Ben Ofeimu.

In the 45th minute, Issa Rayyan stayed down in Bethlehem’s penalty area having clutched the back of his leg before falling. He was helped from the pitch and replaced in first half stoppage time by Cole Turner who came in at right center back, pushing starter Olivier Mbaizo out to right wing back.

The halftime whistle sent Charlotte into the locker room ahead 1-0.

Charlotte has a new coach, James McGuiness, who has instituted a new way of playing.

Until today he had not featured former coach now general manager Mike Jefferies’ stalwart 38-year-old attacker Herrera. He grew into the game a bit slowly, but by the second half was asserting himself as he and his teammates grew more and more comfortable together.

Bethlehem’s lackluster play continued, even though Zach Zandi came on for Jack De Vreis in the 57th minute. Bethlehem’s striker duo Faris and Ngalina exhibited tired legs throughout. Both tried gamely, but the energy simply was not there.

Bethlehem head coach Brendan Burke made his last move in the 63rd minute bringing on James Chambers for Anthony Fontana who was showing more and more frustration. It took the team some minute to adjust to the return of the captain, but vertical entry passes began to happen and, probably, patterns of verbal communication became more comfortable and effective.

In the 73rd minute from a good distance in the right channel on a quick counterattack, Alex Martinez crossed for Herrera at the far post who had slipped behind Ben Ofeimu. The ageless Colombian took the cross perfectly with his head beating Coronel for a 2-0 lead.

And Charlotte began to relax just as Bethehem was beginning to shake its torpor. Charlotte promptly caught the Steel again on the counter, but put it over, and Steel FC began to get back into the game.

After a sequence of two missed corner kicks, Bethlehem recovered the ball and attacked once again. In the 80th minute Ngalina served in from the right channel and the Charlotte central defense failed to win the header. Chavany Willis was crashing amidst others and knocked it into the net.

Two minutes after that a grass cutter ripped through the six-yard box but there were no Bethlehem shirts at the far post to take the equalizer. The flurry of threats reanimated the Independence, and they worked hard for the rest of the match to preserve their first win.

Both goal keepers produced status quo-preserving saves late. Anderson produced the save of the match when he leaped sideways and backwards to swat away a Chambers chip to the far post in the 90th minute.

Four minutes later as stoppage time expired Anderson collected once again and the match was over.

Bethlehem returns home Saturday for the second game of a doubleheader at Talen Energy Stadium, hosting the Indy Eleven at 4:00 p.m. The day begins with the Union hosting Montreal in the first game at 1 p.m. Fans should note there will be no re-entry into the stadium after the Union game is completed.

Three Points:

Young! The oldest players who started for Bethlehem were Carlos Miguel Coronel and Derrick Jones at 22 years 4 months and 22 years 2 months.

Speaking of Jones: He did nothing to suggest that he deserves a look with the Union.

We have no idea what his instructions were for the match, nor do we know the state of his bad ankle. But he had little to no effect until the final 10 minutes.

Last year when Chambers was hurt, Jones stepped in effectively. But that was in a system in which he had been training for the previous two seasons.

Burke’s teaching dilemma: The impact of putting Chambers on the pitch was not instantaneous, but it was clear. Once he was on the pitch Bethlehem slowly began to flow better and better. They know how to play together when their captain is distributing the ball and verbally directing play.

Last year they were forced to practice without him, so they learned how to play that way. Tonight was the first time this year’s group has had to do so. They probably need to practice that way some.

Line-ups:

Bethlehem: Carlos Miguel Coronel*; Matt Real* (c), Ben Ofeimu, Olivier Mbaizo*, Issa Rayyan (Cole Turner^ 45’); Chavany Willis, Derrick Jones*; Jack DeVries^ (Zach Zandi 57’), Anthony Fontana* (James Chambers 63’); Faris, Michee Ngalina. Unused Substitutes: Kris Shakes^; Walter Cortes, Saed Diaz, Shanyder Borgelin. The rest: Out – Jamoi Topey, Questionable – Selmir Miscic, Inactive (presumed on-going registration issues) – Yomi Scintu. * = Union player; ^ = Academy player

Charlotte: Curtis Anderson; Andrew Gutman, Steven Thicot, Hugh Roberts, Joel Johnson; Afrim Taku, Mark Hill (Abdoulie Mansally 85’); Enzo Martinez, Jorge Herrera ©, Jake Areman; Niki Jackson. Unused Substitutes: Brandon Miller; Cabwey Kivutuka, Dominic Oduro, Kevan George, , Enzo Martinez.

Goals:

Charlotte         30th minute       Andrew Guttman (Mark Hill)
Charlotte         73rd minute       Jorge Herrera (Alex Martinez)
Bethlehem      80th minute       Chavany Willis (Michee Ngalina)

Cards:

Bethlehem      57th minute       Yellow       Cole Turner (foul and dissent)
Charlotte         64th minute      Yellow       Andrew Guttman (foul)
Bethlehem      84th minute       Yellow       Matt Real (foul and dissent)
Bethlehem      85th minute       Yellow       Ben Ofeimu (foul)

Officials:     Ref: Elvis Osmanovic     AR1: CJ Morgante     AR2: Benjamin Wooten     4TH: Eric Barnes

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