Steel FC blank Louisville City FC 0-0, only lost once in last five matches

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Bethlehem Steel FC welcomed the defending USL champions to the campus of Lehigh University Saturday evening and finished with a clean sheet behind stout defending, earn a 0-0 draw.

FIRST HALF

The top four rarely breached the midfield line as a unit throughout much of the first half – only one or two players sprinting forward at one given time. The approach to leave the midfield more compact while allowing the top four to press sporadically provided problems for Louisville’s offense to find rhythm.

Unlike their 2-1 win at North Carolina FC, Bethlehem remained compact and relied on team defending to thwart Louisville. Against North Carolina, the press was continuously shredded due to a lack of tight-knit defending early in the match.

All seemed to be going smoothly for Bethlehem. But then the 17th minute occurred, and during that minute, Philadelphia Union center back Josh Yaro, received a bone-crushing blow from Louisville’s Cameron Lancaster.

Both players collided unsuspectingly, although it seems Lancaster was more aware of the impending contact than Yaro. Lancaster’s initial contact with Yaro was high near his head. The impact sent Yaro flying back and he landed roughly onto the pitch. Calls for the medical staff were immediate. Yaro, on a rehab stint following issues with a concussion from earlier this season, left the pitch two minutes later.

After watching the replay a few times, it’s clear that Lancaster saw Yaro, but Yaro never saw Lancaster. Lancaster anticipated the contact, raised his shoulder to soften the blow on himself, and played the man more than the ball, and Yaro was left injured as a result.

Ben Ofeimu was sent on for the injured Yaro and Magnus Rasmussen on for the injured Lancaster. The contact was so jarring that Lancaster was sent to a nearby hospital (upper body injury) after using his shoulder in the clash. Ofeimu, just 17-years old out of the Union’s Academy, did extremely well to enter the match under the circumstances he did. Ofeimu remained steady along the backline.

A bit later in the match’s 27th minute, Nanco created havoc once again as he forced Paco Craig into a sloppy headed pass attempt back to his keeper. Craig’s header didn’t have enough mustard on it and Nanco jumped on it. Ranjitsingh, sensing the ball was too far for him to try and collect, remained on his line. Nanco noticed the conservative goalkeeping and whipped a pass across to the center of the box for Santi Moar. Moar ripped a quick shot but his shot was absorbed brilliantly by the midsection of Louisville defender Pat McMahon.

Steel FC head coach mentioned post-game that the strategy utilized by his team was effective. “You have to be diligent in defending and apply the tactics that you’ve worked on all week. We wanted to counter down Paco [Craig]’s side and had he gotten that early yellow, I think it would have been an entirely different game but I thought we continued to execute well over and over again and we put ourselves in the best position to win the game,” said Burke.

If you solely view possession as the only metric in which you judge a team’s success, then you’d draw the conclusion that Bethlehem were ‘outplayed’ by Louisville throughout the match’s first 45. Louisville registered just slightly over 65% of the possession in the first half.

However, you’d also be leaving out a key factor behind those possession numbers: Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke’s game plan. It’s a combination of sitting back and pressing and it kept Louisville’s offense and their possession numbers from creating a substantial amount of threatening scoring chances. The unpredictable nature of it all prevented Louisville from establishing any real patterns in their attack.

SECOND HALF

Bethlehem’s backline, which featured a change just 19 minutes in, disrupted Louisville’s offense for 55 minutes before surrendering a shot on frame. That shot in the 56th minute was saved easily by John McCarthy.

In the 64th minute, Nanco was replaced by Union Academy forward Jeremy Rafanello. Nanco pestered Louisville’s backline for over an hour. At times, it seemed Nanco would find the back of the net. However, his scoring boots must not have been tied tight enough.

Rafanello would prove to be an effective attacking substitution. For his small stature, given the fact he’s just barely 18-years old, Rafanello showed courage by not shying away from situations where bodily contact was needed. At times, Rafanello bodied Louisville center backs to be a target man of sorts for Bethlehem’s midfielders. Multiple times, in fact, Rafanello pinched back toward the center of the pitch to aid in possession. Simple one-touch passes into his feet were quickly released back, forcing Louisville to change directions.

The 83rd minute provided Steel FC with another chance to threaten. A lengthy pass found Rafanello sprinting back towards the ball. Rafanello’s movement brought two Louisville defenders with him, allowing space along the left flank. That’s where Moar popped up and flashed forward. Radanello skillfully guided a one-touch pass onto the feet of Moar. However, Moar failed to move forward with effective pace as the ball bounced in an unruly manner at his feet. He was later dispossessed, and the chance was foiled.

A few minutes later, the final whistle sounded. The match ended in a 0-0 draw granting Bethlehem a point as they avoid the loss. The point is nice. Blanking the defending USL champions is even nicer.

Match Highlights & Stats

BETHLEHEM STEEL FC STARTING XI:

John McCarthy, Matt Real, Brandon Aubrey, Josh Yaro (19’ Ben Ofeimu), Matthew Mahoney, James Chambers, Drew Skundrich, Anthony Fontana, Michee Ngalina, Santi Moar, Chris Nanco (64’ Jeremy Rafanello)

Substitutes: Tomas Romero, Mike Catalano, Prosper Chiluya, AJ Paterson, Tonny Temple

LOUISVILLE CITY FC STARTING XI:

Greg Ranjitsingh, Kyle Smith, Paco Craig (59’ Alexis Souahy) , Sean Tolsch, Pat McMahon, Paolo Delpiccolo, Devon Williams, Niall McCabe, Oscar Jimenez, Cameron Lancaster (20’ Magnus Rasmussen), Ilija Ilic

Substitutes: Tim Dobrowolski, Chris Hubbard, Brian Ownby, George Davis IV, Shaun Francis

GOALS / ASSISTS

N/A

YELLOW / RED CARDS

45 + 5’ BTH – Anthony Fontana (Unsporting Behavior)

48’ LOU – Paco Craig (Unsporting Behavior)

58’ BTH – James Chambers (Unsporting Behavior)

 

Mandatory Photo Credit: https://www.bethlehemsteelfc.com/

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