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Match report: Bethlehem Steel 0-3 Hartford Athletic

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

After a rollercoaster month of July, Bethlehem Steel failed to get off to a good start to August, falling to visiting Hartford Athletic 3-0.

Throughout July, the Steel found some offense, only to see it fade as the month went on. They thought they had found defensive stability after keeping a clean sheet at Louisville, only to see it lost with a 3-0 defeat at St. Louis — and, on Thursday afternoon, another 3-0 defeat.

Mark McKenzie did not suit up for Bethlehem in this match, a sign he may be with the Union this weekend in D.C. With McKenzie not in the lineup, the Steel deployed Matt Real at centerback. Having seen Real play left back for the Union last weekend, he was able to showcase his utility in different areas of the back line. Newly acquired goalkeeper Todd Morton made his first start for the Steel, adding another challenge to the goal of defensive stability. Also of note, Olivier Mbazio made his return from a knee injury at right back. Mbazio’s return continues a trend of Steel defenders trying to get back into fitness in recent matches.

After a brief feeling out period for the first 10 minutes, the match started to open up, with Bethlehem’s Zach Zandi and Chavany Willis and Hartford’s Daniel Bedoya all failing to score off good opportunities. Moments later in the 22nd minute, Walter Cortes drew a penalty for the Steel as he was fouled after taking a shot in the box. James Chambers stepped up to take the spot kick for the Steel, having his attempt saved by Hartford keeper Frederik Due. Chambers then got a second chance as Due left his line early on the first attempt, earning the game’s first yellow card. Unfortunately for Steel, Chambers’ second attempt was again saved by Due, who got just enough to push the ball on to the crossbar and out.

After two attempts at a penalty and nothing to show for it, Steel’s confidence took a hit, and things went from bad to worse in a matter of minutes. In the 28th minute, the Steel gave away the ball cheaply in their own end, with Hugh Alexander Dixon finding a wide-open Bedoya for the game”s first goal. The Steel looked for an immediate response through Zandi again, but his shot fell wide off a great pass from Issa Rayyan. Hartford then won a free kick just outside the box in the 31st minute, drawing a yellow card on Olivier Mbaizo. A brief lull took over the game after a flurry of chances, with the next chance coming for Hartford in the 38th minute. Debutant Todd Morton made a great double save from a Hartford free kick to keep the deficit at one. The Steel went back down the field but missed a chance, with Ben Ofiemu earning a yellow card for blocking the goalkeeper’s clearance. The teams went into the half with the score still 1-0.

The beginning of the second half saw the Steel looking for an equalizer. In the first sub of the game, Nathan Harriel came on for Olivier Mbaizo at the start of the half. In the 49th minute the Steel thought they had an opportunity for an equalizer as the referee called a penalty for a handball in the box on Hartford. But after consulting the linesmen, the penalty was waived off and a drop ball was given. Soon after Sebastian Dalgaard had an excellent chance for Hartford but put his shot wide. It didn’t take long for Hartford to find a second though, as former Union defender Raymond Lee played in Alexander Dixon to double the visitors’ lead.

To try and get back into the match, the Steel made their second change, bringing on Axel Picazo for Shanyder Borgelin. Picazo tried to make an immediate impact, getting past a Hartford defender only to have his attack stopped by the last man. Hartford then made their first sub with Wojciech Wojcik coming on for Dalgaard.

Wojcik also made an immediate impact, drawing a save from Morton off a glancing header. Issa Rayyan then found the ball and made a daring run into the attacking half. He played in Picazo who was one on one with the goalkeeper but was denied. The game then became much more physical for the Steel as they racked up several yellow cards for their physical style. Ofeimu was shown a second yellow in the 76th minute for kicking the ball away, and the Steel were down a man for the last 15 minutes.

In an attempt at a comeback, the Steel brought on Yomi Scintu for Issa Rayyan in the 79th minute. But Wojcik then dashed any hope of a Steel comeback, finding a loose ball in the box and slotting home for Hartford’s third in the 84th minute. The Steel didn’t offer any clear chances at goal in the final minutes, as the home side was thoroughly beaten.

Three points

Defensive struggles return. Organizing a backline with constant turnover is no easy task, especially with a new goalkeeper who has spent one day with the team. Still, the Steel backline has been leaky all season and needs to find some consistency and chemistry quick if they’re going to make the playoffs.

Issa Rayyan’s position. In an ongoing saga, Issa Rayyan lined up as a striker in this match. After starting at midfield in previous games, it was noticeable that Rayyan’s position is fluid. During the game he was constantly dropping back and switching with Willis and Zandi. When Picazo came on he looked more like a midfielder.

Can’t win at Talen. The Steel have played so poorly at Talen this season — they have the same number of wins there as they do at La Salle University, which is 1. They are now 2-7-3 at home, earning them 9 points. Maybe a stretch away from home is what the Steel need, as they do much better away, with a 4-5-1 record and 13 points.

Lineups

Bethlehem

Todd Morton; Olivier Mbaizo (Nathan Harriel), Matt Real, Ben Ofeimu, Walter Cortes; James Chambers, Cole Turner, Zach Zandi, Chavany Willis ; Issa Rayyan (Yomi Scintu), Shanyder Borgelin (Axel Picazo). Unused substitutes: Lukas Burns, Selmir Miscic, Steve Kingue.

Hartford

Frederik Due; Alex Davey, Kyle Curinga, Raymond Lee, Sem de Wit; Mads Jorgensen, Hugh Alexander Dixon (Jose Angulo), Ryan Williams, Daniel Bedoya; Sebastian Dalgaard (Wojciech Wojcik), Nicky Downs. Unused substitutes: Harry Swartz, Jacob Lissek

Goals

Hartford: Daniel Bedoya- 28th minute – Assist: Hugh Alexander Dixon

Hartford: Hugh Alexander Dixon- 50th minute – Assist: Raymond Lee

Hartford: Wojciech Wojcik – 84th minute

 

Cards

Hartford: Frederik Due – yellow – 22nd minute

Hartford: Kyle Curinga – yellow – 24th minute

Bethlehem: Olivier Mbaizo – yellow – 31st minute

Bethlehem: Ben Ofeimu– yellow – 38th minute

Bethlehem: Zach Zandi – yellow – 63rd minute

Bethlehem: Cole Turner – yellow – 67th minute

Bethlehem: Ben Ofeimu – 2nd yellow – 76th minute

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