USL - Bethlehem Steel FC / USL Match report

Match report: Nashville SC 0-0 Bethlehem Steel

Photo: Marjorie Elzey 

After falling to Hartford Athletic last time out, the Bethlehem Steel picked up their first points in the month of August, notching a 0-0 draw on the road against third-in-the-East Nashville SC.

The Steel started August with a huge disappointment, losing to Hartford at home by a score of 3-0. Mark McKenzie did not suit up for the Steel in this match, maybe another sign that he is preparing to appear for the Union.

Defensive stability and cohesion was a main focus for Bethlehem in this match. With Ben Ofeimu suspended and no McKenzie, Steve Kingue slotted in to central defense. While the Steel’s lineup showed Cortes as the starting left back, he appeared mostly on the right side, giving the Steel a 3 man backline the majority of the time. Matt Real and Issa Rayyan operated as wingbacks for most of the game as they followed the ball up and down the length of the pitch.

The first half was a very cagey and tight affair for both teams. This is exactly how the Steel wanted the game to go with such a young squad, the average age of which was just 19. While there were many midfield battles, the Steel were able to stay compact and not allow Nashville to break them down or hit them on the counter. While the Steel were primarily concerned with defensive responsibilities, they did generate a few good chances. Zach Zandi had a powerful shot from just outside the 18 that was denied by Matt Pickens, who made a fantastic save to keep the score level. Nashville did find their way through the Steel defense once in the first half, but Todd Morton was able to tip a Ropapa Mensah effort wide in the 35th minute. When the first half came to end, the Steel’s game plan was working to perfection, only allowing 1 shot on goal. Also, despite their defensive shape, the Steel registered 2 shots on goal, and continued to look for a dangerous counter attack.

The beginning of the second half saw both teams make attacking subs, with Nashville bringing on Alan Winn for Kharlton Belmar and Faris come in for Michee Ngalina for the Steel. In the first 10 minutes of the half, it was the Steel who were looking to get on the board first. James Chambers had a free kick bounce into the arms of Pickens in the 48th minute, and then set up a chance for Chavany Willis in the 50th minute. Then, Nashville started to take control of the match and find their chances against the Steel defense. In the 52nd minute, Lebo Moloto had a free kick saved by Morton and then a few minutes later Mensah shot over from the top of the box.

Nashville’s chances then started to come more frequently. It started with Winn playing Daniel Rios in the box, but his looping header went wide in the 62nd minute. Then Moloto found space in the box but placed his shot right at Todd Morton in the 64th minute. Another 2 minutes later and Jimmy Ockford had another look that went straight into the arms of Morton. In the 68th minute, Nashville thought they had found a goal but a save by Morton then a bicycle kick clearance off the line by Walter Cortes kept them off the board. To get some fresh legs into the midfield, the Steel brought on Axel Picazo for Chavany Willis in the 71st minute.

Immediately after the sub, Issa Rayyan found some space near the top of the Nashville box but rolled his shot wide for a goal-kick. Todd Morton was called into action again in the 79th minute, making a save on a header by Mensah. In the last real chance of the game, Ken Tribbett headed a cross goal-bound but was cleared off the line by Rayyan. Nashville made their last subs before stoppage time, bringing on Tucker Hume for Darnell King and Matt LaGrassa for Bolu Akinyode. The only real chance of finding a winner in stoppage time was a Nashville corner, but it was easily cleared by the Steel defense and the full time whistle came.

Three points

Defensive struggles nagging. Organizing a backline with constant turnover is no easy task, but the Steel should be proud of keeping a clean sheet. Especially while deploying a new wingback system in this match and replacing Ofeimu with Kingue.

Issa Rayyan’s position. In an ongoing saga, Issa Rayyan lined up more as wingback in this match. This season Rayyan has played every position on the right side of the field for the Steel. Here he showed he is capable of covering the length of the field, while contributing offensively and having a larger defensive responsibility.

More road games? The Steel have played poorly at home this season, earning just 2 wins. They have gotten better results on the road as of late, especially better defensive performances. If only the Steel could take their road mentality with them during home games, they would be much further up the table.

Lineups

Bethlehem

Todd Morton; Matt Real, Steve Kingue, Nathan Harriel, Walter Cortes; James Chambers, Anthony Fontana, Issa Rayyan, Zach Zandi; Chavany Willis (Axel Picazo), Michee Ngalina (Faris). Unused substitutes: Lukas Burns, Selmir Miscic, Shanyder Borgelin.

Nashville

Matt Pickens; Taylor Washington, Forrest Lasso, Jimmy Ockford, Darnell King (Tucker Hume); Ken Tribbett, Bolu Akinyode (Matt LaGrassa), Lebo Moloto; Kharlton Belmar (Alan Winn), Ropapa Mensah, Daniel Rios. Unused substitutes: Connor Sparrow, Justin Davis, Kosuke Kimura, Bradley Bourgeois.

Goals

None

Cards

Bethlehem: James Chambers – Yellow – 90th minute

One Comment

  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    This is not the first year Burke’s teams have done better on the road. 2017 saw them with a better road record than at home.
    .
    Think about it. A traveling party decision has to be made before traveling, which means he has more time knowing exactly what his gameday 18-to-15 is. If there is a walk through or practice on the away pitch he can use that the teach.
    .
    At home, especially when playing after the first-team, his group can change the day of his game. Once in 2016 it changed Sunday morning.

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