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Bethlehem Steel FC doubleheader yields mixed results

The scorelines weren’t encouraging, but the nature of the day and the opponents looked to really benefit the club

Matt Ralph

Bethlehem Steel FC played a doubleheader at blustery YSC yesterday, with the first game against USL rival Harrisburg City Islanders and the second against a travelling Notre Dame team. Harrisburg was Steel’s first (and only) open game against USL competition, and that match ended in a 1-1 draw.

City Islanders seem to have a new direction about them. They lost Jose Barril to OKC Energy out in the USL’s Western Conference as well as Claymont, Delaware native Keasel Broome to fellow Pennsylvania club Pittsburgh Riverhounds. That being said, after a hiccup of a rebrand and the odd announcement of new ownership during a player unveiling at a Weis (yeah, the grocery store) Harrisburg seem to be over their “that’s so City Islanders-y” phase. Steel and HCI fought out a tough match with James Chambers chipping the Islanders keeper, hitting the far post and putting the ball in the net from about 25 yards. From there, it was the usual chippy HCI v BSFC game. Fouls, not a lot of chances and a congested midfield. City Islanders found their equalizer when Tomas Romero couldn’t quite do enough to clear a dangerous cross and an Islanders striker calmly headed the ball home.

The later game against Notre Dame had a different feel to it, with Adam Najem and Auston Trusty getting in their hour long workout since reps at center back and center mid are hard to come by with the Union these days. Trusty paired with Hugh Roberts in the back (which we shouldn’t get used to), and Roberts did well to pair with multiple center back partners today and only allow three goals in two games. Najem combined well with Marcus Epps after a high press saw the Fighting Irish turn the ball over to Santi Moar. Moar found Najem, who linked up with Epps, and Epps found the pass and blasted the ball into Notre Dame’s net to give Steel the lead. Good things never last, especially against an organized team like ND. Jon Gallagher put home Notre Dame’s first on a great free kick that went over the wall and into the net right at the half. The luck of the Fighting Irish rested on Gallagher again as just before the end of the match he found his brace to give ND a 2-1 win and ruin Steel FC’s undefeated preseason.

Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke was very pleased with the style of play he saw from his opponents as well as seeing things he could use before the season opener against Rochester. “Harrisburg is stronger than they were last season and clearly have the resources to build. Notre Dame was extremely organized. Even when we broke them down they didn’t really ‘break down’. Both teams gave us great experiences as we look ahead to Rochester on April 1.”

April 1st is your chance to see a younger, and most likely better Steel FC side. Were you there today? If so, when did you thaw out? Liked what you saw from anyone on either team? Let us hear it in the comments.