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Bethlehem Steel FC edges Villanova in preseason clash

Three first half goals powered Steel to their second straight preseason win on Wednesday

Lucas Hodges controls the ball for Villanova with Hugh Roberts applying pressure
Matt Ralph

Three first half goals were enough for Bethlehem Steel FC to win a preseason match against a heavily depleted Villanova University squad on Wednesday. But it wasn’t always pretty.

Academy midfielder Josue Monge opened the scoring early for the visitors with a shot from outside the 18 just six minutes in. Ten minutes later, Josh Heard set up a goal-bound Santi Moar shot that was cleared off the line right to Yosef Samuel for his second goal of the preseason.

After a couple of chances hit woodwork from Heard and Amoy Brown, Moar was on the receiving end of another Heard pass that he put off the post and in just before halftime. Like the second goal, sloppy play proved costly for the Wildcats, which spent a bulk of the first half defending.

Moar’s goal was the third of the preseason for the Union draft pick out of Pfeiffer University. He had a chance early in the second half to record a second straight brace, but Nova keeper Carson Hunt made the first of a couple second half saves that kept the home side in the game.

After a frustrating first half for Wildcats forward Lucas Hodges, who normally plays out wide but played up top on Wednesday, he was able to create a pair of chances and score a goal off a breakaway despite shouts from the Bethlehem players for a foul.

The lead cut to 3-1, Villanova started to find its feet through midfield workhorse Andreas Bartosinski and a pair of freshmen who played sparingly in the fall - Jack Gilliam and Frank Cotroneo. Gilliam’s cross set up Hodges’ first crack at goal that he skied over the bar and Cotroneo’s confident finish in the box narrowed the lead to 3-2.

Incredibly, they did this with seven regulars missing and only one player available on the bench - Conor Bradley, who replaced his brother and former Philadelphia Union Academy teammate Shane Bradley, at halftime. Shane was the recipient of an elbow to the head from Seku Conneh that earned Conneh an early hook from head coach Brendan Burke.

It was one of several physical plays called into question on the day. Villanova defender Sean Teixeira drew the ire of some Steel players for a couple of his challenges in the second half.

Union Academy grad Zach Zandi was among those missing from the lineup. Star midfielder Miguel Polley was also out along with forwards Max Kroschwitz and Jake Anderson, starting goalkeeper Will Steiner, Andres Camacho and Eric McKenna. Steiner, McKenna and Kroschwitz are all returning as fifth-year seniors in the fall.

“I think we learned a lot about ourselves there,” Villanova head coach Tom Carlin said. “Our group responded better in the second half. The first half we were just a little enamored by things and our distribution from the back was pretty bad and we didn’t handle adversity well.”

Coming off a 7-0 win over Junior Lone Star FC in their first preseason match last week, Burke said his team could have easily matched that score line in the first half.

“Disappointing not to finish a game off when you go up 3-0 and you hit the bar and then hit the post,” Burke said. “But it’s not the end of the world.”

Burke used a similar lineup to start the game as he did the first preseason game last week with the only change being academy right back Nykolas Sessock starting over trialist Matt Mahoney.

The second half substitutes included Academy players JD Wagner, Freeman Dwamena, Justin McMaster, Tomas Romero and Jahmali Waite along with Union draft pick Chris Nanco. Some additional trialists also saw time, including Trinidad & Tobago midfielder Duane Muckette and recent MLS SuperDraft picks Napo Matsoso and Chris Wingate.

Matsoso, who was drafted but not signed by New England Revolution, was a teammate of trialist Charlie Reymann at Kentucky and Wingate, who was drafted but not signed by New York City FC, starred at New Hampshire.

Bethlehem Steel Starting XI
GK: Billy Heavner* LB: Charlie Reymann*, CB: Mark McKenzie#, CB: Hugh Roberts, RB: Nykolas Sessock#, MF: James Chambers, MF: Yosef Samuel, MF: Josh Heard, MF: Santi Moar, MF: Josue Monge#, F: Seku Conneh
Substitutes: GK: Jahmali Waite#, GK: Tomas Romero#, D: JD Wagner#, D: Freeman Dwamena#, MF: Chris Wingate*, MF: Duane Muckette*, MF: Napo Matsoso*, MF: Justin McMaster, MF: Chris Nanco*, F: Amoy Brown

* Trialist
# Philadelphia Union Academy

Villanova Starting XI
GK: Carson Hunt, LB: Christopher Bared, CB: Nikkye DePoint, CB: Shane Bradley, RB: Sean Teixeira, MF: David Bettenhausen, MF: Kian Zapata, MF: Jack Gilliam, MF: Andreas Bartosinski, MF: Frank Cotroneo, F: Lucas Hodges
Substitute: MF: Conor Bradley