"To give up a goal in the fifth minute, that blows my mind a little bit."
Brendan Burke was clearly unhappy with the opening 15 minutes of Bethlehem Steel FC's match against Red Bulls II yesterday, and rightfully so. Mark McKenzie became the third academy defender to start a game for Steel FC, and a very easy fifth-minute goal wasn't exactly the start anyone had in mind. Granted, both of the center backs for Bethlehem were kids. Auston Trusty is 17 himself. However, we've all seen what Trusty is capable of and, with all respect to Brandon Allen, he was very fortunate. Open looks that close are a rarity against a generally composed Steel FC backline.
Burke came out with one of his youngest lineups yet on Sunday, giving time to some guys we haven't seen a whole lot. Jamie Luchini and Josh Heard in particular logged big minutes and played rather well. Heard played a tidy game surrounded by the comparative giants that are Bolu Akinyode and Derrick Jones. Defender Nick Bibbs had plenty of time to show his worth, largely in part due to a terribly unlucky run of play that saw Mark McKenzie's debut cut short after he took a soccer ball to the head and left the match with a concussion. Bibbs linked well and Bethlehem shut down the dangerous combination of Alex Muyl, Brandon Allen and Derrick Etienne the rest of the match.
Speaking of, 70 minutes passed before death rolled up on the Lehigh Valley and caused an hour-long weather delay. Post-game, Burke noted that it happened at the perfect time for Red Bull. Do I think RB II coach John Wolyniec has a weather machine? Probably not. That's largely irrelevant however, as both teams had to endure the break. Coming out after the delay, I thought it was safe to assume Red Bull II would sit back, play possession, and grind out the last twenty. I was wrong. Bethlehem threatened first-team regular Ryan Meara, with Fred even finding the crossbar on a nearly wide-open net. Unlucky as he was, Bethlehem probably deserved the equalizer during that stretch. Not to say Red Bull didn't attack themselves. Etienne and Allen both challenged Badr after the restart and Samir did a great job to make two or three fantastic saves to keep his team within a goal. Late offensive surges led to nothing and Bethlehem dropped the game to RB II and mother nature, 1-0.
This wasn't a bad game. Red Bull played seven guys who have featured with the first team. Seven. Allen, Muyl, Meara, and Gideon Baah are legitimate MLS talent and that Steel FC with a relatively young lineup was able to hold a playoff lock Red Bulls II to one goal is a testament to the development of some of these guys.
Next week Bethlehem Steel FC start a long, long road trip as they face off against Charlotte Independence on Friday. Keep it here for everything you need to know before the first-time matchup between Steel FC and the Independence.