After Friday night’s 3-2 lost at Penn FC, Steel FC were hoping to bounce back against Atlanta United 2. However, Atlanta controlled much of the match Wednesday night. A 25th minute goal from Brandon Vazquez and a 50th minute goal from Oliver Shannon propelled Atlanta to victory despite a late goal from Derrick Jones in the 84th minute for Steel FC.
The first five minutes of the match provided Atlanta United 2 with a threatening chance on goal. That was pretty much the story of the game for the remaining 85 minutes as Bethlehem Steel FC struggled to control large portions of the match.
Jake McGuire, Philadelphia Union goalkeeper, was called upon several times to help bail out Steel FC’s porous defense. The fourth minute provided McGuire with his first test. Jon Gallagher and Romario Williams navigated their way towards the end line which pinned Steel FC’s back four too deep. Williams received an aerial pass which he neatly slid to Gallagher. Gallagher smashed it with his first touch, but McGuire smothered the shot.
One minute later, Santi Moar decided to create a chance of his own in response to Atlanta’s early offensive push. Moar gathered the ball along the left-wing before cutting in centrally. After getting by two Atlanta defenders, Moar continued his diagonal run and gained entry into the box. Moar then cheekily flicked the ball ahead into space as he ran past three defenders. The Spaniard then released a right footed blast that beat Atlanta’s keeper, Alec Kann, but the ball hit the post instead of the back of the net.
It became clear early on that Moar would be the key to victory for Bethlehem. However, it seemed Miles Robinson and a few Atlanta teammates noticed the same thing.
Just 13 minutes after Moar single-handedly flew by half of Atlanta’s defense untouched, Williams went studs up in a challenge with Moar. Upon viewing the replay, Williams’ front foot went fully studs up and clipped the inside of Moar’s right ankle. If that weren’t enough, Williams’ trailing leg then crunched the same right ankle his right foot sliced through.
Because of the reckless challenge, Moar’s sock was ripped wide open and he struggled to place weight on his ankle. But Williams didn’t receive a red as both the announcers and myself were expecting. Williams only received a yellow for almost snapping an opponent’s leg in two.
Moar was subbed off in the 23rd minute as Drew Skundrich replaced him. Three minutes later, Atlanta found the back of the net when Brandon Vazquez scored his second USL goal of the season.
Matthew Real put forth a lazy effort to clear a bouncing ball at the top of the box. Vazquez challenged Real for the loose ball and won possession. Instead of using his body to shield Vazquez from gaining possession, Real flailed his left foot at the ball and whiffed. Vazquez took a touch and chipped it over the outstretched McGuire for a 26th minute Atlanta United 2 goal.
The second half was no different for both sides. Atlanta saw a healthy amount of the ball while Bethlehem squandered the little spells of possession they did happen to create.
The 50th minute produced an Oliver Shannon long-distance goal from well outside the box. Shannon ran onto a poor clearance attempt following an Atlanta corner kick. Steel FC were very slow to regain shape which allowed Shannon to take a few lengthy touches before firing home his shot.
Following the goal, Matt Mahoney was visibly distraught. Mahoney, a Steel FC veteran and well-respected locker room guy, rarely shows outbursts like the one following Atlanta’s second goal. But his outburst was well warranted.
For three to four minutes before the Shannon goal, Steel FC lazily chased Atlanta around the pitch. Whenever Bethlehem won back possession, the next touch or pass was carelessly taken. For example, if you rewind the sequence of events that created Shannon’s shot, you’d notice Olivier Mbaizo with not one but two chances to clear pressure. Mbaizo instead displayed unconvincing attempts to clear pressure.
During the 69th minute, Aidan Apodaca found himself unmarked just outside the six-yard box. Apodaca put his head on the ball but unfortunately was unable to pick a corner. Kann jumped on the attempt calmly and preserved the clean sheet for the time being.
However, Bethlehem remained intent on scoring. In the 87th minute, Derrick Jones jumped on a bouncing ball at the top of the goal box. A corner kick from Adam Najem knocked off Aidan Apodaca and landed at Jones’ feet. Jones tip-toed around three Atlanta defenders without losing the ball before ripping a left footed shot into the top of the net for Steel FC’s lone goal.
Najem almost equalized in the 93rd minute when he took on Robinson 1v1 just outside the box. Najem beat Robinson and released a right-footed attempt that sailed just wide of the post. Atlanta United 2, and Kann, breathed a sigh of relief moments later when the final whistle blew.
- Tonny Temple – The Union Academy player earned his first Steel FC start. Temple became the 12 Union Academy player to earn a start with Steel FC. Unfortunately for Temple, he was forced to play up top without Santi Moar to his left following Moar’s early exit. Temple provided energy but without Moar, he was unable to create on his own.
- Olivier Mbaizo – Mbaizo has displayed his weakness several times over the last few weeks with Steel FC. He possesses great pace and has impressive offensive abilities, BUT he lacks focus when defending in pressure situations. Follow a Steel FC match for 90 minutes, and you’re guaranteed to witness Mbaizo get beat on the back post at least 3 times.
- Derrick Jones – Perhaps an inability to remain locked in for an entire 90 minutes is preventing Jones from becoming a regular member of Jim Curtin’s matchday 18. But one thing is for certain: when Jones wants to score, he will. His goal Wednesday was yet another example of how he can takeover games at this USL level.
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC STARTING XI:
Jake McGuire, Matthew Real, Brandon Aubrey, Matt Mahoney, Olivier Mbaizo, James Chambers, Derrick Jones, Santi Moar (22’ Drew Skundrich), Adam Najem, Chris Nanco (71’ Prosper Chiluya), Tonny Temple (57’ Aidan Apodaca)
Substitutes: Tomas Romero, AJ Paterson, Ben Ofeimu
ATLANTA UNITED 2 STARTING XI:
Alec Kann, Miles Robinson, Jack Metcalf (61’ Will Crain), A.J. Cochran, Sal Zizzo, Jon Gallagher, Brandon Vazquez (71’ Lagos Kunda), Andrew Carleton, Oliver Shannon, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, Romario Williams (81’ Yosef Samuel)
Substitutes: Nicolas Caraux, Christopher Goslin, Jose Hernandez, Devon Sandoval
25’ ATL – Brandon Vazquez
50’ ATL – Oliver Shannon (A.J. Cochran)
87’ BST – Derrick Jones (Aidan Apodaca)
YELLOW / RED CARDS
18’ YELLOW – ATL – Miles Robinson
43’ YELLOW -BST – Brandon Aubrey
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Mandatory Credit: Bethlehem Steel FC