USL Match report

Match report: Bethlehem Steel 2-2 Louisville City

Photo: Sean Griswold

Facing off against Louisville City, the reigning league champs, Bethlehem Steel were only five points behind their opponent heading into the match and needed a win at home. Ultimately, though, the Steel had to settle for a tie.

Bethlehem fought hard the entire match, but went down early before turning it around in a wild second half full of cards and great chances. It was one of the chippiest matches of Bethlehem’s season with an insanely high amount of cards (both yellow and red) shown throughout.

The match began in the usual back and forth fashion. There were few threatening chances for either side, with the first save of the match made by Bethlehem’s Tomas Romero in the fifth minute. The Steel countered with their first chance of the match coming off of a set piece from midfielder James Chambers in seventh minute after forward Michee Ngalina was fouled outside of Louisville’s box.

Bethlehem showed an energy that hasn’t been seen in a while from this squad, desperate to shake off their recent losses and home field woes. A free kick in the 17th minute led to a near goal off of the head of center back Jamoi Topey, glancing off of the crossbar after either a possible attempt on goal or a cross. Ngalina had a dangerous shot that just curled wide of the post in the 23rd minute, followed by another great shot from his striking partner Faris just a minute later that goalkeeper Benjamin Lundt dove on and scooped up.

Despite Bethlehem’s attempts, Louisville forward Luke Spencer scored the first goal of the match in the 26th minute, beating center back Ben Ofeimu, then Romero and finally, left back Walter Cortes who was standing on the goal line.

The match got chippy for the following few minutes, resulting in yellow cards for both sides. A cooling break in the 32nd minute was much needed, not just because of the high temperatures and blaring sun, but to calm down some flaring tempers. It didn’t last long though, as both teams went down to 10 men in the 37th after both Faris and Louiville midfiedler Napo Matsoso received straight red cards.

The first half might have ended in some back and forth, but the second half started with a quick goal for Louisville. Lucky Mkosana headed a quick cross from fellow winger George Davis IV past Romero for Louisville’s second goal of the match in the 46th minute.

Bethlehem, however, received a penalty kick in the 49th after Ngalina was taken down in the box by center back Paco Craig. Midfielder Chavany Willis buried the penalty shot in the left corner, cutting Louisville’s lead in half.

Nathan Harriel, who came on at halftime, nearly evened up the score in the 54th minute after a pass from midfielder Issa Rayyan, but Lundt made a strong kick save to push the ball just wide of the net. At this point in the match, the heat and being down a man was hitting both teams, who were still creating great chances, but were really stretching the length of the field. But Bethlehem pushed through, tying up the game in the 57th minute with another goal from Willis. Chambers served a great pass outside of the box that Willis blasted on a volley past Louisville’s keeper to give him a brace. Shortly after their second goal, the Steel had a few strong chances, courtesy of Rayyan, Chambers and Harriel each pushing the ball into Louisville’s box, but everything ultimately ended up in Lundt’s arms.

The wild second half continued with more fouls and cards, but no more real chances for either side. Ofeimu quickly accumulated two yellow cards in three minutes and was sent off during stoppage time. Both teams finished the match with two goals a piece and only nine men on the pitch after Ofeimu was sent off and Louisville’s Abdou Mbacke Thiam being treated on the sidelines.

Three points

A physical match with questionable refereeing. Both teams gave as good as they got in this chippy match. However, it quickly spiraled out of the ref’s control as two players were ejected after some debatable fouls in the first half. There was a penalty kick awarded to Bethlehem in the second half, that while not in question, was questionable as to why Paco Craig, who committed the foul, was not given a card— especially after he received a yellow in the first half.

Rayyan’s return. In Rayyan’s first start since his hamstring injury during the match against Charlotte on April 16, he was a key play maker for the Steel. His fancy footwork was on display up and down the right side early in the match as he started in the midfield. Rayyan took a much more attacking position after the Steel lost Faris and helped create more than a few of Bethlehem’s strongest chances. Still recovering and not 100%, he left the match after an hour.

Missing key players. Both defenders Mark McKenzie and Matt Real have been called up to the U-20 USMNT, while Saed Diaz was also on duty for Panama. All three were absent for this match. There were also a few big players who were questionable, coming back from injury or still listed as injured. Zach Zandi was listed as questionable, coming off of an injury, and did not make an appearance this match.

Lineups

Bethlehem Steel (4-4-2)

Tomas Romero; Ben Ofeimu, Walter Cortes, Jamoi Topey, Olivier Mbaizo (Nathan Harriel 46′); Chavany Willis, James Chambers, Issa Rayyan (Yomi Scintu 63′), Anthony Fontana; Michee Ngalina, Faris; Unused substitutes: Kristopher Shakes, Shanyder Borgelin, Anges Bohui

Louisville City (4-5-1)

Benjamin Lundt; Alexis Souahy, Paco Craig, Shaun Francis, Oscar Jimenez; Lucky Mkosana (Sunny Jane 90′), George Davis IV (Sean Totsch 68′), Magnus Rasmussen, Napo Matsoso, Devon Williams; Luke Spencer (Abdou Thiam 75′); Unused substitutes: Chris Hubbard, Paolo DelPiccolo, Richard Ballard, Pat McMahon

Scoring

Louisville: Luke Spencer 26′
Louisville: Lucky  Mkosana 46′ (George Davis IV)
Bethlehem: Chavany Willis 51′ (penalty kick)
Bethlehem: Chavany Willis 57′

Discipline

Louisville: Paco Craig (yellow) 30′
Bethlehem: Olivier Mbaizo (yellow) 31′
Bethlehem: Faris (red) 37′
Louisville: Napo Matsoso (red) 37′
Louisville: Magnus Rasmussen (yellow) 56′
Louisville: Abdou Thiam (yellow) 87′
Bethlehem: Jamoi Topey (yellow) 87′
Bethlehem: Ben Ofeimu (yellow) 89′
Bethlehem: Ben Ofeimu (red – accumulation) 90’+2′

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