This was always going to be a tough game for Bethlehem Steel FC. Richmond is one of those USL teams that just knows how to get results, and last night was no different.
From the onset of the match Eric Ayuk made sure that the Richmond defense was re-acclimated to his style of play. If anything, Ayuk looked even better on return to action for Steel FC after a spell of play with the Cameroon National Team. His speed and ability to get in and out of team’s back lines is something that Bethlehem have missed somewhat, and his contrast of style with guys like Derrick Jones and Bolu Akinyode is something to behold.
The midfield tonight was excellent. Richmond isn’t exactly a tall squad, and Akinyode, Jones, and James Chambers used that to their advantage to win pretty much every ball that came their way. Akinyode in particular tonight stood out to me as a guy who has really improved on his footwork, aiding in the attack much more than in their last meeting with the Kickers in April. Paired with Ayuk and a dangerous at points Cole Missimo, the midfield actually had some of the better chances of the game, with James Chambers missing pretty badly on a shot outside the box, and then just failing to turn a cross in late on in the second half.
Which brings us to the final result. Scoreless draws are the bane of my existence given that goals make things definite and far more entertaining, however there is some promise for strikers Seku Conneh and Cory Burke. Conneh had a great chance off a free kick in the first half that saw his effort hit the crossbar, and Cory Burke played his usual frantic, pressing style that I’m a big fan of. That being said, someone needs to step up in the striker role. I don’t really care who it is. Cory Burke, Seku Conneh, Amoy Brown (to an extent, he’s not had a great time with injuries while he’s been here) and Fabian Herbers have all scored for Steel FC this year. Herbers can’t CAN’T be the number two guy in this organization, and Burke, Brown, and Conneh need to find some form to figure out who wants to be the main striker in the Steel FC arsenal. Defensive efforts like this are wonderful, but eventually if you want to make a playoff run, the goals have to go in.
Defensively, this was another solid match for Steel FC. Ryan Richter is a right back every USL (maybe even MLS team) wouldn’t mind having, and his goal line clearance was crucial to keeping the game at zero. Anderson Conceicao had his best game in the United States, looking calm under pressure, cleaning up crosses and keeping an organized back line. Mickey Daly was able to pick out a few passes and spring counters, and Taylor Washington took three or four fouls all over the field, and proved that he can be a gritty player when need be.
Samir Badr continues to be the least of Brendan Burke’s problems. Week in and week out he seems to come up huge on good chances from opposing strikers, and if anything, he’s finding his form at a very hard time to be consistent. Road trips usually aren’t a place for players to figure out their style and gain confidence, but Badr seemed to be on another level once again, this time in his home state of Virginia. His goal kicks are mostly right where he wants them, and the back line seems to be playing very compact soccer under his direction. This was no more apparent then when after Anthony Grant put the ball back in the net after a big Badr rebound, but his defense played the offside trap and Grant was a step ahead of Washington and Anderson.
Five points out of nine is nothing to scoff at for a first year team on their first big road trip. They’ll look to keep the momentum against a very good FC Cincinnati team next Saturday, July 2nd at 6pm.