Throughout the preseason, anyone who had seen Bethlehem Steel FC had to be impressed. These were a group of guys who have only really played with each other a handful of times, and they looked like a pretty cohesive side. There was evidence of that early on in individual efforts, with Eric Ayuk showing how troubling his blistering pace can be while also showing some of the problems that he'll look to improve on with the USL outfit - mainly his shot. That being said, Montreal had three of their four defenders on yellow cards at one point in large part thanks to the Cameroonian winger. James Chambers was a box to box menace, as the Dublin native rattled the crossbar after a delicious back heel pass from Leo Fernandes that would have put Steel in front after ten minutes. Elsewhere, Steel just seemed to be the hungrier side. Josh Yaro and Mickey Daly paired well as the center backs, forcing FC Montreal to abandon the long ball game they tried to play early on. Taylor Washington did an incredible job at left back, shutting down Montreal crosses from the wings when they did manage to get higher up the pitch. When Montreal was able to get balls in, John McCarthy was able to do his best Andre Blake impression jumping high and catching most of the balls that came in.
After a decent amount of back and forth and a few missed chances from Bethlehem, Fabian Herbers finally broke the deadlock. Captain Ryan Richter took an errant Montreal goal kick and hit it to Leo Fernandes who was able to slip Walter Restrepo past the defense. Restrepo fed Fabian Herbers, and Herbers did well to play the ball of his chest, head it down and slot the ball home for the first goal in the history of Bethlehem Steel FC.
Going into the half the score was 1-0, and Montreal was starting to come into their own a little bit after what was probably a pretty surprising showing from the Lehigh Valley's expansion side. Steel came out in the second half seeming ready to play a more counter attacking style of soccer. Fabian Herbers adopted a play-making roll which saw him spring Eric Ayuk behind the FC Montreal defense on one of the prettiest through balls you'll see all month. Ayuk failed to finish, but the link up play between those two was just as solid all night long. Defensively in the second half, Steel FC left Montreal no choice but to take low percentage shots from outside the box almost all night. The combination of second overall pick Josh Yaro and former Sacramento Republic regular Mickey Daly was steel beam solid. Out wide, the Ryan Richter and Taylor Washington fullback combo showed promise on both ends of the pitch, with Richter getting a bit of a scoring chance. Throughout the game they were able to play off of the midfield (mostly James Chambers) and shunt the FC Montreal attack while springing a few counters of their own.
This team needs to be seen to be believed. That's how impressive they look. A lot of credit is due to the coaching staff for being able to find a system and a line up that works that well together, and to the players for being consummate professionals. The good news is Bethlehem Steel FC plays their home opener against FC Cincinnati on Sunday April 3rd from Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University.