In a much-anticipated interstate rivalry match between Bethlehem Steel FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Pittsburgh prevailed 2-1 as Bethlehem’s 3-match win streak was snapped at home.
Soccer fans throughout the Lehigh Valley finally got the matchup they were waiting for Sunday night as Bethlehem Steel FC squared off against interstate rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
The opening sequences of the first half painted a rosy picture for Steel FC fans, with high pressure and succinct passing. However, that slowly faded. Pittsburgh, with one of the best defenses in USL, stifled Steel FC up the middle of the pitch.
Steel FC would have to rely on the wings to advance up the pitch due to the tight spaces being consistently snuffed out by Pittsburgh midfield. Despite both teams attempting to figure the other out, none scored early.
Pittsburgh created a golden opportunity for a goal in the 18th minute after Kenardo Forbes beat Matt Real with a skill move before slipping a pass onto the boot of defender Jordan Dover. Dover’s shot at point-blank range was saved by McGuire.
Pittsburgh would score first though.
In the 34th minute, Neco Brett found the ball in space as he entered the goal box. Real marked him but perhaps granted a bit too much space. Brett took a touch to his left before firing a blast just by the slide tackling Real and his shot beat McGuire to the near post.
The final 10 minutes of the first half were full of sloppy passing, exaggerated hand motions, and dejection from Steel FC players. They needed the halftime whistle desperately. Bethlehem tried mightily to find Marcus Epps in pockets of space. However, whether it be miscommunication between he and right back Olivier Mbaizo or Pittsburgh’s steady pressure, that connection was severely lacking throughout the first 45 minutes of play.
The stats at halftime were alarming for Steel FC fans. The team leader in touches was Matt Mahoney with 42. They mustered zero total shots. And their team passing accuracy was putrid.
But something must’ve been said in the proper tone throughout the locker room because Steel FC weren’t about to throw in the towel just yet.
During the 52nd minute, a Jake McGuire goal kick was headed on with great effort by Real which allowed Santi Moar to run onto the ball in space. Moar then found Nanco up top and Nanco did the rest. He dribbled directly at Thomas Vancaeyezeele and took a touch to his right before firing home the goal.
With the score deadlocked a one a piece, both coaches turned to their bench for support. Noah Franke spelled Dover for Bob Lilley’s side while both Brenden Aaronson and Michee Ngalina came on for Epps and Anthony Fontana. Fontana’s night was less than impressive as he registered just 11 touches in the first half and remained contained throughout the early stages of the second half.
Aaronson and Ngalina almost instantaneously changed the game after a turnover sparked a counter attacking opportunity just after the 70th minute mark. Ngalina darted forward with just two defenders to beat. He then sent a low hit cross toward the goal box where Aaronson was all alone. However, Dan Lynd continued his stellar goalkeeping by sacrificing his body to make a save.
Lynd and Aaronson collided heavily, which left Lynd worse for wear. Lilley was forced to use a second sub and brought on reserve keeper Mike Kirk.
The match seemed destined for a draw until the 79th minute when Chambers misplayed a back pass which allowed Pittsburgh to jump. Mahoney committed to try to clear the error but was quickly sidestepped by Christiano Francois. Francois then slid a pass to his right for Brett who found the back of the net once more.
Bethlehem threw all but the kitchen sinks forward as the match dwindled away, but all for naught. Pittsburgh continued their unbeaten streak to three straight wins while Bethlehem saw the end of their three-match win streak.
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC STARTING XI:
Jake McGuire, Olivier Mbaizo, Matt Mahoney, Brandon Aubrey, Matthew Real, Drew Skundrich, James Chambers, Anthony Fontana (68’ Brenden Aaronson), Marcus Epps (68’ Michee Ngalina), Santi Moar (77’ Omar Holness), Chris Nanco
Substitutes: Tomas Romero, Faris, Aidan Apodaca, Ben Ofeimu
PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC STARTING XI:
Dan Lynd, Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Joe Greenspan, Jordan Dover (66’ Noah Franke), Kenardo Forbes, Ben Zemanski (88’ Hugh Roberts), Mo Dabo, Christiano Francois, Neco Brett
Substitutes: Mike Kirk, Todd Pratzner, Kevin Kerr, Romeo Parkes, Dennis Chin
GOALS / ASSISTS
34’ PIT – Neco Brett (Kenardo Forbes)
52’ BST – Chris Nanco (Santi Moar)
79’ PIT – Neco Brett (Christiano Francois)
YELLOW / RED CARDS
20’ BST – Matt Mahoney (Unsporting Behavior)
26’ PIT – Tobi Adewole (Unsporting Behavior)
62’ PIT – Jordan Dover (Unsporting Behavior)
70’ BST – Santi Moar (Unsporting Behavior)
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!
Follow our writers on Twitter:
Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Bethlehem Steel FC.