Philadelphia Union II / USL Match report

Match report: Hartford Athletic 0-3 Bethlehem Steel

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

The Steel were able to spoil Hartford’s last game home game at Rentschler Field in advance of a move to Dillon Stadium for their future football. Bethlehem snagged what has become an increasingly elusive three points in the league, hoping to climb back into the playoff picture with their 3-0 win Friday night behind goals from Faris, Issa Rayyan, and Walter Cortes.

They did so without captain James Chambers, who was suspended for yellow card accumulation. Without Chambers in the lineup, this Steel side’s average age weighted by minutes played was 19.53. Nevertheless, this young Steel side was able to win the match despite being outshot, and having to deal with some serious pressure through the match when they were only up 1-0 and even more while up 2-0.

In the end, the Steel were able to walk away with their first road win since April 6th.

Hartford and Bethlehem went back and forth in the first fifteen, feeling each other out, playing probing balls to try and draw out each other back lines, and attempting to test each other’s keepers. 

The breakthrough came after Chavany Willis won a foul in Bethlehem’s own defensive half. With a bit of quick thinking, Steel holding midfielder Cole Turner looped a through ball in between the Hartford centerbacks to a sprinting Faris, who headed it on to himself. Faris then opened up his hips and slotted home a left-footed instep shot. Hartford keeper Frederik Due did his best to try and close the angle but Faris had finished swiftly from about fourteen yards out to give the Steel the opening goal in the seventeenth minute. This was Turner’s first professional assist. 

The opening goal was met with a great deal of excitement from the Steel players. Zach Zandi, Turner, and Willis were clearly controlling the flow of the game preceding the goal, sprinkling balls out to attacking fullbacks, the dangerous Anthony Fontana, as well as Faris and Issa Rayyan. 

The Steel were able to hit the mark again when Faris reached the Hartford endline and squared a ball back across the goal mouth that was finished off by Issa Rayyan. After ricocheting off of two Hartford defenders, the ball was possessed by Rayyan who calmly touched the ball out in front of his right and into the net past the sprawling Due.

The goal was the first professional goal for Rayyan, who was named ACC Freshman of the year at Duke University in 2018 and was the second professional signing from the Union Academy’s Residency Program. Himself, and other 2019 signings Ben Ofeimu and Zandi played very well in the first half.

In the second half, Hartford began to show some life, forcing Steel to defend desperately at times. Without Mack McKenzie at their disposal, Matt Real had to slide in from his natural left-back position to play as the left centerback. He played well throughout the game distributing possession, as well as tackling, tracking, and marking well. 

Throughout this stretch of good play Steel keeper Tomas Romero was tested often. His highlight save of the match was one that came off his face in which several Steel defenders scrambled to block shots after the initial save. If it wasn’t for Faris’s goal and assist, Romero could very well have been the Steel’s man of the match, logging 8 saves for his first professional clean sheet.

Substitute Axel Picazo made his impact on the game when receiving a ball on the right flank and playing a ball through to a streaking Faris. Faris was unable to finish the well-weighted through ball as Due stood tall fighting the shot off and putting it out for a corner. 

The icing on the cake for the Steel came in the 91st as Walter Cortes smashed home a shot from a tough angle at the top corner of the eighteen-yard box. The left-footed shot bent away from Due and went in just to the right of the far post. The goal, very much against the run of play, was Cortes’s second of the season.

The win was Bethlehem’s fifth of the season; they now sit tenth in the Eastern Conference. The Steel are back in action on the 4th of July as they travel to take on in-state rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Kickoff on Independence Day is 7 p.m.

Three Points:

Faris. Faris has scored in the last two matches he has played in and has looked quite dangerous. But has also received a red card and a yellow card in those two matches. His production as a forward will most likely keep him on the field, but his lack of discipline can be troublesome and something a young player will want to avoid getting a reputation for. 

Turner.  Yesterday was Induction Day at the US Naval Academy for plebe summer. Cole Turner played the full match tonight for Bethlehem. Turner has long been reported as appointed to the Naval Academy for 2019-2020. His playing tonight raises the question of whether he will head off to the Naval Academy, but it clearly does not yet answer it because of the possibility of late reporting.

McKenzie. The Steel not rostering Mark McKenzie for the match is curious. He was an unused substitute for the Union’s match against the New England Revolution on Wednesday. Steel player Anthony Fontana was also listed as a sub for the Revs game and ended up starting for the Steel versus Hartford. My best guess is that Curtin wanted to utilize McKenzie for the Union’s training sessions and also keep him fresh in case of emergency for the upcoming NYCFC game. In his absence Real stepped in well and Cortes ended up scoring, so fair play to the Union’s staff.  


Bethlehem Steel

Tomas Romero, Walter Cortes, Matt Real, Ben Ofiemu, Nate Harriel, Cole Turner, Anthony Fontana (Steve Kingue 89’), Zach Zandi, Chavnany Willis, Issa Rayyan (Axel Picazo 74’), Faris Pemi Monumbagna (Snyder Borgelin 84’)

Unused substitutes: Brady McSwain, Selmir Miscic, Michee Ngalina, Yomi Scintu,

Hartford Athletic

Frederik Due, Raymond Lee, Kyle Curinga, Sem de Wit, Harry Swartz, Nicky Downs, Mads Jorgensen (Ryan Williams 77’), Alex Dixon, Phillp Rasmussen (Nikolaj Lyngo 84’), Danny Barrera, Jose Angulo (Wojciech Wojcik 63’)

Unused substitutes: Jacob Lissek, Mike Novotny, 


Bethlehem: Faris -17th minute

Bethlehem: Issa Rayyan – 37th minute

Bethlehem: Walter Cortes- 91st minute


Bethlehem: Faris Pemi Moumbagna – yellow – 51st minute

Bethlehem: Nathan Harriel – yellow – 55th minute

Bethlehem: Snyder Borgelin – yellow – 89th minute

Hartford: Nikolaj Lyngo – yellow – 93rd minute 

One Comment

  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    In preseason, when Chambers was off the pitch while everyone’s conditioning was being built up, the team was lost without him.
    In Hartford without him they executed their system with dominance in the first half, possession was a point or two below 60:40 Bethlehem. Then Hartford made the adjustments Will mentions.
    Credit the students for learning over the last few months, and credit their teachers for successfully teaching them. Burke, Hogan, Wheddon, and Kevin Coleman — Academy U19s Head who helps out when available — have created the needed roster flexibility effectively.
    Thank goodness Zandi and Willis were back from injury.

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