Bethlehem Steel FC win 3-0, snap Eastern conference rival New York Red Bulls II’s seven-match unbeaten streak early Wednesday night at Goodman Stadium and earn three points, with three goals, and a clean sheet.
Despite soggy conditions, another Bethlehem Steel FC win occurred. An organized back line throughout all 90+ minutes of play. Centerbacks Brandon Aubrey and Matthew Mahoney stuck together all match while both outside backs Prosper Chiluya and Olivier M’baizo did well to pushing forward to produce the clean sheet victory.
MICHEE NGALINA: YOUNG MIDFIELDER SHINES
18-year winger Michee Ngalina blasted home a beautiful strike following a brief spell of possession from Steel FC in the 37th minute. Mbaizo decided to play a long ball toward striker Cory Burke, who knocked it down for Fabian Herbers who played a neat one-touch pass to Adam Najem. Najem whipped a ground pass over to the waiting Ngalina. Ngalina took one simple yet effective touch to tee up the shot which bent into the far corner of the net. Najem recorded his 10th career assist with Steel FC, becoming the first in club history to do that.
Ngalina became the youngest goal scorer in Steel FC history, and his triple back-flip goal celebration marked the historical moment.
By the end of the first half, Steel FC registered five total shots, all of which came from inside Red Bulls II keeper Ryan Meara’s box. They threatened early and often while remaining stout defensively against New York’s aggressive pressing style.
New York began the second half with a new look. Two new players appeared for John Wolyniec’s side. Defender Niko de Vera came on to replace fellow defender Connor Lade to allow for some positional shifts along New York’s backline. Forward Brian White replaced midfielder Amando Moreno in hopes of more attacking chances.
However, towards the 60th minute mark, it became clear a Steel FC win was close despite what the possession numbers showed. The organized defensive effort prevailed as each New York attempt into their final third was cancelled out. Steel FC sacrificed anyway they could to preserve a clean sheet heading into the 60th minute.
The match shifted toward Steel FC in the 62nd minute when Red Bulls II midfielder Andrew Tinari was shown a yellow. Just a minute later, Steel FC cashed in their organized defensive effort for a perfectly executed counter attack that allowed Burke to spring Fabian Herbers forward with just one man and the keeper to beat. Herbers released a cannon of a right foot onto the ball just outside the box which left Meara with no chance other than to get a fingertip on it. Meara’s effort was not enough and Herbers pushed the match a bit too far out of New York’s reach.
Herbers’ performance was by all accounts, brilliant. The Philadelphia Union winger is consistently nagged for his positioning. Often, Herbers is found either too far central or too far back in throughout matches with Bethlehem Steel FC this season. In fact, Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke mentioned during Wednesday’s conference call that he needs to “play at least 15-20 yards more forward if he wants to make an impact here with us,” said Burke.
Throughout all of Herbers’ 80+ minutes of work, he did just that. His ability to pest New York’s backline whenever long balls were sent forward proved effective. Herbers positioning allowed for Burke and others to have another outlet to release pressure and to maintain shape after clearances. The midfielder is rounding into form at an optimal time as both Philadelphia and Steel FC approach important matches.
SANTI MOAR: THE CLOSER
The 78th minute rolled around and New York had yet to gain a goal back. Santi Moar replaced the 18-year old goal scorer Ngalina in the 78th minute. Once again the Spaniard’s presence along the left-wing proved to be effective. Moar created space for himself via simple skip moves through two, or three defenders before releasing the ball. His speed and movement created havoc for New York’s high-pressing back line in search of a goal. Moar’s play remains noticeable whenever he steps on the pitch for Steel FC.
In extra time, when the match was all but over, Steel FC continued pressing, surprisingly. In the 94th minute, Burke decided to take a quick throw-in deep in New York’s half. Teammates and coaches barked to slow down play to end the match. However, Burke spotted Najem in perfect position between both of New York’s centerbacks. Burke heaved a long throw to Najem. Najem keenly allowed the ball to bounce passed him while gaining position on his defender. He slotted a left footed shot home for a 94th minute goal. Finalizing a 3-0 victory for Bethlehem Steel FC.
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC ON THE ROAD
Bethlehem Steel FC now face three road games on their slate and their third match in just seven days this Saturday. They travel to Ottawa for a 8 PM kick against Ottawa Fury FC. The tough road trip after a grueling victory could prove to be tough for Coach Burke and his team. Roster selection and rotations will be difficult for Steel FC Saturday as Philadelphia play Saturday night too.
One thing is for certain, Coach Burke remains highly confident in his team’s abilities and their current form. Also of note, long-time captain James Chambers is back in training after suffering a setback a few weeks ago. His right knee is healing appropriately, but his presence Saturday remains a “stretch”, according to Coach Burke.
Coach Burke joked Wednesday about Chambers returning at the perfect time, “I think by the time we have [Chambers] gets back, teams will have forgotten what he brings to the game. So we might get on a good run once we get him fit again could be set to return when were in good form which is good for him.”
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