Bethlehem Steel FC needed three points on the road to help keep their playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately, they couldn’t solve Pittsburgh goalkeeper Zack Steffen and the Riverhounds defense, losing 2-1 in the Steel City.
Bethlehem Steel FC had the first chance of the match when a Josh Heard shot went high of Riverhounds goalkeeper Zack Steffen in the 12th minute. The former Philadelphia Union Academy and SC Freiburg player is on loan to the Riverhounds from Columbus Crew SC, and made a couple of good saves early on to keep the match scoreless.
Pittsburgh got the scoring started in the 18th minute, when a Danny Earls cross off of a short corner found the head of Corey Hertzog. Hertzog’s ninth goal of the season was a well-placed header that beat Samir Badr to the corner, and just like that the Riverhounds were up an early goal.
The game turned physical, with Pittsburgh’s Earls picking up a yellow card for a hard foul on Bolu Akinyode and players on both sides being whistled for strong challenges that eclipsed legality. Bethlehem Steel FC would persevere however, and in the 28th minute a poor clearance attempt by Pittsburgh’s Michael Green was picked off by Steel FC’s Josh Heard. Heard quickly sent the ball to Akinyode, who fired it high and hard past Steffen to get his first goal of the season and draw the sides even.
Corey Burke had a decent chance that was snuffed out by Zack Steffen shortly before the hydration break, and the game was really a defensive battle during the remainder of the first half. BSFC captian Ryan Richter picked up his first yellow card of the season in the 37th minute, and shortly after Pittsburgh had a great chance when Corey Hertzog sprung Alejandro Aguilar past recent Union first team signing Auston Trusty. Aguilar shot hard at goal but Badr was there to make a good save and keep the score even. Both Steffen and Badr made some good, solid saves going into the half to keep the sides level.
Pittsburgh made two substitutions at the half, bringing on Cristian Martinez and Nick Thompson for Lebo Moloto and Alejandro Aguilar respectively. Corey Hertzog had a clear look at goal shortly after the break that went sailing high over the bar. Pittsburgh used their third substitution in the 58th minute, bringing on Marshall Hollingsworth for Ryan Adeleye. There were some decent chances on goal on both sides, with Samir Badr’s sprawling interruption on a run from Martinez in the box being perhaps the best of the bunch.
Shortly after Badr’s play however, disaster struck for BSFC. Kevin Kerr and Marshall Hollingsworth had a little give-and-go that found Kerr turning Anderson Conceicao around completely. Kerr was all alone on Samir Badr and didn’t miss from close range, giving Pittsburgh a lead they would not relinquish.
Bethlehem and Pittsburgh were able to further rotate through their rosters, getting guys important minutes late in the season. Steel FC brough on Jamie Luchini on for Josh Heard at the 65th minute, and Pittsburgh countered with bringing on Rodrigo Saravia for Cristian Martinez after Martinez was injured on a hard challenge from James Chambers. Chambers was shown a yellow card for the tackle, his eighth of the season. As the rain started and then became heavy, Bethlehem Steel FC stepped up their offensive pressure, getting several decent chances on Zack Steffen.
Pittsburgh’s Steven Okai came off for Zach Boggs and Union draft pick Taylor Washington came off for Amoy Brown in the 78th minute, and Cory Burke came off for Union Academy product Justin McMaster in the 79th minute for Steel FC, but Pittsburgh’s defense was up to the task. The final change of the night came at the 87th minute when Gabe Gissie came on for Leo Fernandes. Eric Ayuk made a great play in the 88th minute, coming out of nowhere to track down an onrushing Cristian Martinez who had nothing between him and Pittsburgh’s third goal but Samir Badr and a bunch of open field. While there were seven minutes of time added to the end of the match, there were only cards given out and no goals scored. Corey Hertzog was shown a yellow card for a foul from behind on Ryan Richter, and Anderson was shown a yellow card for a horsecollar tackle on Zack Boggs. Justin McMaster of BSFC and Saravia of Pittsburgh both had shots on goal that went just wide of the frame in extra time, but neither found paydirt, and the match ended with Pittsburgh winning their first home match in eight weeks, 2-1 over Bethlehem Steel FC.
Bethlehem Steel FC will head to Montreal to take on FC Montreal next Sunday at 3:00 PM as part of a four game road trip.