Match Report / Philadelphia Union II / USL Match report

Match report: Louisville City FC 0 – 1 Bethlehem Steel

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Bethlehem Steel returned to winning ways Saturday night, defeating Louisville City FC 1-0. It was Bethlehem’s first ever win at Louisville, the defending USL champions who are coached by former Union man John Hackworth. After losing a 3-1 lead last weekend, the Steel were looking for some defensive consistency, which was provided by Mark McKenzie and Matt Real. Tomas Romero was big in keeping the Steel clean sheet, making numerous big saves.

The Steel used this match to give Matt Real and Mark McKenzie more match minutes, something that will be important for the Union as Kai Wagner is suspended next weekend. The average age of the squad was again 21 years, with James Chambers being the lone exception of the younger player theme.

After a brief feeling out period for the first 10 minutes, the match started to open up. Louisville looked dangerous in the opening minutes, especially ex-Union man Antoine Hoppenot. Louisville seemed in control of the match early on, with the Steel sitting back and looking to hit on the counter. But in the 26th minute, the Steel found a loose ball in the midfield and Walter Cortes curled in a shot from the top of the box for the games only goal. After the goal, the Steel went back into their defensive shape, inviting pressure from Louisville. In the 35th minute, Louisville had their first real chance of the match, which was saved by Romero. Shortly before the end of the first half the games first card was handed out to Louisville’s Paco Craig in the 45th minute.

The Steel held their own in the first half, and the game plan worked to perfection, giving the visitors the lead at the half. Unfortunately, just before the halftime whistle, Faris had picked up a slight ankle injury. He was replaced by Axel Picazo to start the second half.

The beginning of the second half saw the Steel looking for more goals. In the 49th minute Matt Real was able to show off his attacking ability but curled his shot over the bar from the top of the box. 5 minutes later Louisville began to dominate the half, with Romero coming up with a brilliant double save off a Luke Spencer header in the 54th minute. After the save, Louisville made their first sub of the night, bringing in Abdou Mbacke Thiam for Sunny Jane in the 54th minute. Moments later Luke Spencer made a great move to get behind the Steel defense, but was denied by another great save from Tomas Romero in the 57th minute. Looking to gain some more control in the match, the Steel brought on Shanyder Borgelin for Yomi Scintu in the 62nd minute. Just after the sub, the Steel earned a corner but Picazo blasted his effort over the bar. A few minutes later it was Romero’s time to shine once again, Louisville found their way in once again but Romero made a diving stop, making another one the ensuing corner. Looking for an equalizer, Louisville brought on George Davis IV for Oscar Jimenez in the 76th minute.

For the last 10 minutes, the Steel looked to see the game out, bringing on Nathan Harriel for Issa Rayyan in the 80th minute. Immediately after the sub though, Louisville had another great chance from Thiam, but another terrific save from Romero kept the Steel in the lead. The last chance for the Steel came in the 87th minute, when Borgelin found his way in behind, but his effort was blocked out for a corner. With 5 minutes of stoppage time added, Louisville was pushing hard for an equalizer. Bethlehem’s Matt Real was shown a yellow card in the 92nd minute for stopping a counter attack. The last chance for Louisville came moments later, with Luke Spencer heading a shot on target, but it was a comfortable save for Romero. In a difficult place to play, the Steel were able to keep a clean sheet and be organized defensively, something they should look to build on in their push to the USL playoffs.


Three points

What defensive struggles? Mark McKenzie and Matt Real showed why they’re on first team contracts. Organizing a backline with constant turnover is no easy task, especially after allowing 4 goals and blowing a lead last time out. The story could have been very different if not for Tomas Romero. Making save after save, the backline has him to thank for their first clean sheet in a while.

Issa Rayyan’s position. In an ongoing saga, Issa Rayyan lined up as a midfielder in this match. He was probably the correct choice for this match, as the Steel needed more defensive help, something Rayyan is willing to do. After scoring twice at striker last week,  it will be interesting to see where Rayyan fits in Brendan Burke’s plans once Michee Ngalina is back healthy and starting games for the Steel.

First Win at Louisville. What a bounce back win for Bethlehem, losing at home 4-3 then going on the road for a clean sheet against the defending champions. Louisville is one of the hardest places to play in USL, a good sign for this young Steel squad. They need to put up more performances like this in order to make the playoffs and prove they have taken the next step as a group.



Tomas Romero; Matt Real, Mark McKenzie, Ben Ofeimu, Walter Cortes; James Chambers, Cole Turner, Zach Zandi, Issa Rayyan (Nathan Harriel); Faris (Axel Picazo), Yomi Scintu (Shanyder Borgelin). Unused substitutes: Lukas Burns, Selmir Miscic, Steve Kingue.


Chris Hubbard; Oscar Jimenez (George Davis IV), Paco Craig, Taylor Peay; Sunny Jane (Abdou Mbacke Thiam), Devon Williams, Magnus Rasmussen, Niall McCabe, Brian Ownby; Luke Spencer, Antoine Hoppenot. Unused substitutes: Tim Dobrowolski, Sean Totsch, Alexis Souahy, Shaun Francis, Napo Matsoso


Bethlehem: Walter Cortes – 26th minute



Louisville: Paco Craig – yellow – 45th minute

Bethlehem: Walter Cortes – yellow – 85th minute

Bethlehem: Matt Real– yellow – 92nd minute



  1. Good to see them get this win

  2. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Better than good, excellent.

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