Usually a draw for the fourth place team in a conference against the eleventh team in the conference would be viewed as nothing but a disappointment. Bethlehem’s draw against the Riverhounds Saturday night was a rousing success. With no first team influence as well as Jake McGuire, Auston Trusty and Anthony Fontana all being used by the Union for their friendly against Swansea City, Steel relied heavily on the Philadelphia Union Academy to fill out their squad. In short, they answered the call incredibly.
The opening 45 was a back and forth affair, with both teams finding some chances. Early it was a laser shot from James Chambers on a volley that Keasel Broome was lucky to get a forearm to for Steel, with Romeo Parkes unlucky to hit woodwork on his long range effort on Tomas Romero. Pittsburgh did find the back of the net first, with Chevy Walsh finding a Shannon Gomez centering pass and slotting away calmly to put the visitors up 1-0. Ironically enough it was the veteran presence for Steel that was able to find the equalizing goal. Hugh Roberts found a second ball off a broken Bethlehem corner, and lofted the ball in for James Chambers. James gave up his head but was rewarded with a penalty kick, which he slipped under Broome to level things pretty much right after.
Bethlehem was trending young and it only took 42 minutes to see how that would play out. Coming in for Chris Wingate was Brenden Aaronson, who didn’t shy away from anything on the day. Aaronson had speed and some solid passing that were vital in helping Bethlehem keep the streak alive, and maybe provided some unintentional comedy in trying to muscle Romeo Parkes off the ball. Tiger Graham was called on in the 73rd, taking Yosef Samuel’s spot and playing the striker role. This allowed Chris Nanco to revert to his usual right wing position. Graham almost had a clean look or two, but did well to clear some balls out and take some pressure off a defense that was battling all game. Seth Kuhn was the third Academy player to make his debut, coming in for Santi Moar in the 84th. Limited play again, but surely Kuhn will take some valuable experience and a pretty good story to tell everyone he knows Monday morning.
Credit where credit is most certainly due to Hugh Roberts. With their backs against the wall late in the match and a pretty good Hounds attack of Corey Hertzog, Kay Banjo and Romeo Parkes still on the field, Roberts was a leader in organizing his team and keeping the Hounds at bay. While everyone was surprised that the Hounds didn’t seem interested in testing the youngest keeper in USL history Tomas Romero, credit to Hugh for showing why he was co-defender of the year last year with a gritty performance.
-Credit to Matt Mahoney for putting in a full 90’ at center back. After the match he said he played a bit there as a kid and anyone that saw Steel play Newtown City FC in West Chester would have seen him at CB as well, but obviously the USL is a different beast than a friendly. Also credit Josh Heard for being game for a 90 minute shift in what has been limited action this year as well.
-Tomas Romero is 16 and in a game where the Academy kids all played well enough to really frustrate my colleagues in Pittsburgh (well done boys), I tend to forget that Tomas is as young as he is. His service and comfort with the ball at his feet make him feel like he’s much older.
-Bethlehem’s eight match undefeated streak is now tied for the longest such streak in the Union organization’s history. They’ll travel to Richmond next weekend in hopes of making it nine.
Steel travel down to play the Kickers this weekend. I’ll be up in Montreal all week but expect a preview Friday night or Saturday morning regardless. Until then, keep it here for all of your Pennsylvania soccer news!