Bethlehem Steel FC started their preseason exhibition schedule with a 5-1 win over local National Premier Soccer League squad Junior Lone Star FC at YSC Sports near King of Prussia on Friday morning.
Sporting plain gray Philadelphia Union training tops and shorts, the Steel FC lineup featured eight signed players and three members of the Union Academy. A pair of trialists and two additional signed players saw time in the second half.
Lone Star FC started out on the front foot, forcing Samir Badr to make a couple of saves before Josh Heard and Ryan Richter started the first of several waves of attacks down the right side that eventually led to a Richter goal from a sharp angle just eight minutes into the match.
Steel FC continued to control possession but a defense starting a 16 and 17-year-old on the left side (Academy players Matthew Real and Auston Trusty) did look vulnerable, especially to an athletic Lone Star side that was quick on the counter. Sending numbers paid off for Lone Star when Anthony Allison leveled the score at 1-1, which held until halftime
The 1-1 stalemate didn't last long into the second half. Lone Star nearly broke the tie right away with a shot on an empty net that Mickey Daly cleared out of harm's way. Minutes later Derrick Jones got forward and was taken down in the box. Calmly converting the penalty kick, the first-ever signing for BSFC did the proper sporting thing by not celebrating against the club that started him on the path to his first professional contract.
Head coach Brendan Burke went to his bench about halfway through the second half, moving Gabe Gissie up top with substitute Amoy Brown, putting trialist Tunde Ogunbiyi in goal and moving Real up to make room for Raymond Lee at left back. Former Villanova midfielder Omar Umar also came in while James Chambers, Josh Heard, and Seku Conneh were spelled.
The change in formation led to a more attack-oriented offense, which didn't take long to produce. Richter was again the instigator from the right side delivering a perfect cross on the ground to the far post where Real was able to tap home the goal. Real, who is typically the one delivering the crosses from his usual left back position, had a couple other chances in a flurry of activity that eventually produced the first of two late goals for Gissie.
After a relatively quiet first half, Gissie came alive when he was paired with Brown up top and the duo proved too much for the Lone Star defense. After scoring to make it 4-1, Gissie was awarded a penalty kick with only seconds remaining that actually erased a goal Brown had scored on the play.
Burke said afterwards that the match was a good challenge for his team.
"They had some good athletes and that tested us," Burke said. "We've been playing against each other in training so it's good to get into a competitive environment."
Syracuse University - a team that made it to the College Cup in December - is up next in the preseason schedule, a match that will be played March 6 at noon on the training grounds in Chester.
"That will give us another opportunity to evaluate where the holes are," Burke said. "Even today I saw a lot in the first half to be honest. But that's why you do this. Guys don't have match fitness yet, there are a lot of things that need to improve."
BSFC's starting lineup and the lineup after second half substitutions: