It wasn’t the best day for soccer, but I’ve been out at Goodman in worse weather. The Steel went down 2-0 but were galvanized in their resolve to come back and tie the game 2-2. Their tensile strength was exceeded on a late counter-attack and they dropped the opener of their second USL season, 3-2.
Early on, the Steel side was able to posses the ball but unable to mount any kind of effective attack. They had difficulty controlling the middle of the field and were also unable to get the ball up the wing effectively. In the mean time, Rhino forward Darius Madison was able to split normally reliable center backs Trusty and Tribbett to get a point blank corner shot in off young netkeeper Romero for a 1-0 lead.
Later in the first half, a “questionable” call in the area (Kram3’s words; I was in the rest room) resulted in a PK and a subsequent 2-0 lead for the visitors from Rochester.
At this point, the tarnished Steel could have gone to scrap. Instead, as attacking midfielders Moar and Epps changed sides, they were able to push the ball up the pitch on the wing a bit better and begin to generate some offense. The back line of Wijnaldum-Trusty-Tribbett-AJones were able to push up in support and the team began to show a bit more energy. It paid off as holding midfielder Monge was fouled in the box. Striker Davies buried the PK and the Steel headed to the locker rooms at the half down only 2-1.
Early in the second half, the same lineup came out with similar jump and although the midfield still seemed to belong to the visiting side, the Steel were able to play the ball in the opponent’s end and generate some continued pressure out of their starting 4-5-1.
Allowed only three subs this season as the USL conforms to more standard rules (they were allowed five previously) Coach Burke sent on strikers Seku Conneh and Cory Burke as they seemed to switch to their alternate 4-3-3 formation with Burke-Davies-Conneh all on attack. It worked. The pressure resulted in an egregious foul on Burke in the box which Conneh had both helped stimulate as well as finished.
With the score now 2-2, but the visiting Rhinos on their heals, the Steel continued to forge ahead. Additional chances clanged off the cross bar or dribbled just wide of the net. As Steel FC took the opportunity to try to get the 3 standings points that come with a win rather than the one that comes with the tie, they allowed a counter-punch to reach the back of the net. On a play which looked like a bit of mis-communication between 16-yo goalie Tomas Romero and his defender, they were unable to clear the ball which was then head-passed and tapped in for the winner.
The strategy to save Conneh and Burke for the second half with Union attacker Davies seemed like a good one, with the formation change and all involved. I would have liked to see USL center-of-the-field players Roberts and Chambers on the field to start instead of so many possibly uninspired Union loaners. Young Monge made some noise in the first half, but the other midfielders in the middle, Najem and Carroll, were largely ineffective to my eye. Davies had trouble finding room up top, but some of that was down to the inability of the team behind him to get him the ball in an effective position. Trusty and Tribbett are good, and helped control the ball and switch sides throughout. They probably helped keep the ball off Romero somewhat, but two lapses hurt as the barely-legal-to-drive goalie wasn’t able to bail them out. As the season rolls on, a more experienced keeper might help as well.
The revitalized Steel staff is doing all they can to make the game day experience as much as it can be in the facility they have to work with. As we arrived, we were able to pick up our season ticket packages which included special scarves and specially printed ticket books. The giveaway was a rally towel–always welcome after the game to tend the bar and have at hand for tailgates. A kicking station was set up just inside the gates for those who wanted to try their
hand foot at hitting the corner of the goal. Halftime brought a bubble-bounce soccer game between supporters from the Steel an the Rhinos. I had the Steel group with a 3-2 win.
Goodman Stadium has limited stadium concessions, but the special arrangement for beer was maintained and appreciated. I made sure to heed the Lehigh Valley Health Network warning against dehydration, by taking on plenty of fluids. A couple portables along the walk-in supplemented the offerings, including a pizza oven cranking out fresh pies for the Steel faithful. Some seating areas under the stands remained from last season as well–a welcome place to get out of the weather but of little help on such a gray windy day. The best bet on most game days, though, is the tailgate scene. It’s a chance to relax with your food and beverage of choice, and maybe participate in a small-sided game of your own, before the long journey from the lots to the seats. We bailed on our tailgate plans this time as the wind forecast scared us away.
The Rochester side brought with them a small band of supporters who somehow squatted in Forge, driving the Steel supporters, the East End Army and the I-Beam Ultras, to the far end. It seemed to throw the vocal faithful off their game a bit–either that or the extended tailgate time–but they rose to the occasion as the team tied the game. The show of smoke and streamers was impressive. We were all forced to exit the stadium through the visitor’s revelry–an experience I don’t wish to repeat any time soon. I much prefer to walk by the Forge as our own supporters celebrate and as the coarse tones of “Steel Town” echo over the Goodman Stadium circa-1977 sound system.
Official game info:
Bethlehem Steel FC 2, Rochester Rhinos 3
Shots: 10-7 (Bethlehem)
Shots On Goal: 5-4 (Rochester)
Corners: 5-1 (Bethlehem)
Saves: 2-1 (Bethlehem)
ROC – 9’ Darius Madison (Mike Garzi)
ROC – 34’ Wal Fall (PK)
BST – 45’ Charlie Davies (PK)
BST – 72’ Seku Conneh (PK)
ROC – 87’ Jochen Graf (Darius Madison)
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC STARTING XI
Tomas Romero; Giliano Wijnaldum, Auston Trusty, Ken Tribbett, Aaron Jones; Brian Carroll, Josue Monge (Seku Conneh 60’), Adam Najem; Santi Moar (Cory Burke 60’), Marcus Epps, Charlie Davies
Substitutes not used: Jahmali Waite, Charlie Reymann, Hugh Roberts, Mark McKenzie, Josh Heard
ROCHESTER RHINOS STARTING XI
Tomas Gomez; Joe Farrell, Ryan Felix, Jordan Dover, Ryan James, Bradley Kamdem Fewo; Mike Garzi (Jalen Brown), Wal Fall, Kenardo Forbes, Stefan DeFregger (Brandon Beresford); Darius Madison (Jochen Graf 65’)
Substitutes not used: Dan Lynd, Todd Pratzner, Ray Lee, Christiano Francois
Jorge Ramirez, Gjovalin Boli (Assistant), Joe Zawistowski (Assistant), Michael Guzzetta (Fourth)
- Tomas Romero, Aaron Jones, Adam Najem, Josue Monge, Santi Moar and Marcus Epps all earned their first starts in professional soccer.
- Goalkeeper Tomas Romero became the first player born at 2000 to earn a start for Steel FC
- Eight members of the Philadelphia Union earned a start today with Steel FC, the most in team history.
- With his penalty kick conversion in the 72nd minute, Seku Conneh now has three goals as a member of Bethlehem Steel FC.
- Today’s match was the second time in club history that Steel FC had multiple penalty kick goals, the other occurrence came against FC Montreal on May 15, 2016 with Derrick Jones and Ryan Richter scoring. Davies’ and Conneh’s PK goals were also the sixth and seventh PK goals in club history.
Bethlehem Steel FC continues its season-opening home stand next weekend when the team hosts FC Cincinnati. The two teams will square on at Goodman Stadium on Sunday, April 9 with kick-off slated for 4 p.m.
See you out by the pitch,