Bethlehem Steel FC started off their six-game home stand with a convincing 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Sunday night. Steel FC forced the issue early, using some great interplay from midfielders James Chambers and Leo Fernandes as well as strong holding play from Cory Burke to try and catch the Hounds off guard.
Cory Burke kicked off the scoring right after the 23 minute mark. Bethlehem’s midfield smothered the Hounds right outside of Gilstrap’s 18-yard box. Leo Fernandes was fouled after he played a header that was popped straight into the air. Derrick Jones nudged the ball into the path of Cory Burke and the Jamaican striker did well to finish from a tight angle.
The first half saw Bethlehem implement a great end to end pace and use their ability to get players out wide to their advantage, something coach Brendan Burke praised after the match. Going into the second half, the second goal was a very crucial thing to get. Burke recognized that his counterpart Dave Brandt switched to a route one style of attack which prevented that high press midfield, but opened up the counter. James Chambers seemingly had a field day and put in a full 90-minute stretch of playing inch perfect passes to his attacking players. The chances for Bethlehem Steel FC were abundant, as the team managed 13 shots with four coming on frame.
It wasn’t until the final kick of the match though when a very impressive looking Leo Fernandes got his first goal for Bethlehem Steel FC this year. The young first team bench mainstay was excited to get a full 90 and continued a decent run of success that started with a good showing in Open Cup play. Fernandes was able to effectively shield the ball from the Hounds defense all day, and as a result helped create the first goal and was rewarded with the spot kick that he narrowly converted.
Another Bethlehem regular returned to action against Pittsburgh. John McCarthy picked up a clean sheet when he donned the neon green and a new helmet (the real key to his success) at Goodman Stadium. While he admitted that not playing isn’t how he likes to spend his time, the opportunity that BSFC has given him and the younger Union guys has been a welcomed change. I half-jokingly asked him if the more headaches he gives the staff, the better it is for him, to which he chuckled, but I wasn’t fully kidding. Goalkeeper right now (besides Andre Blake) is a stacked position for the Union. McCarthy has looked pretty sharp for Bethlehem and Samir Badr has been just as good.
After the loss against Toronto the coaching staff had some tough talks with a few players according to coach Burke. If any of the guys who played tonight were involved in those talks is unknown but doubtful. What happened after the pregame speech was one of the most complete Steel FC wins that we’ve seen all year, and if they can hit a stride over the next five home games, this is a playoff team.
That next game happens to be Thursday the 14th at high noon against a visiting Wilmington Hammerheads.