Bethlehem Steel FC came out swinging, and managed to send a statement to a Richmond team who might have been licking their chops at the prospect of playing against a club that got dropped off the face of the Earth last week. Steel FC put in a performance heralded by manager Brendan Burke post game as their best of the season. Let's break down how it happened.
The midfield trio of Derrick Jones, Bolu Akinyode and Eric Ayuk was deadly. Bolu and Jones were winning just about every ball that came their way, and Ayuk was a driving force offensively. He sent a ball forward to Cole Missimo, who backheeled a set-up pass that saw Ayuk rifle a shot from outside the box that found the back of the net in the 21st minute. Richmond just looked lost in the first half and had no luck at all trying to get balls through the pairing of Gabe Gissie and Derrick Jones. That meant they had to try and go over the top. Taylor Washington, Mickey Daly, Auston Trusty and Ryan Richter were up for the challenge, deflecting balls left and right, and stifling any chance RIchmond had of meaningful possession.
The second half started off perfectly for Bethlehem, as Eric Ayuk stole the ball from Mike Callahan right off the jump, cut back, found Jones who got the ball onto his right, and powered home his first professional goal to put Steel FC up 2-0 at the 46th minute. Brendan Burke was clearly happy for Jones after the match and said that now that Jones knows how it feels to net a goal, to expect more of the same from the former Academy standout. Gabe Gissie not only nutmegged pretty much everyone who wore a red shirt today, but he was instrumental in shutting down the left side of the Richmond attack.
It wasn't the smoothest for Bethlehem. Shortly after Jones's goal, Richmond's hot hand Yudai Imura found the back of the net off of some suspect defense on a Richmond corner that saw the visitors put pressure back on Steel FC. Bethlehem responded well, playing great balls and stifling out any Kickers attack, give one or two chances that John McCarthy dealt with easily.
Brendan Burke's young side will be tested again at home as the Charleston Battery will make their first trip to the Lehigh Valley as they will try to figure out how to stop a Steel FC team that has amassed a lot of momentum coming out of this week.