The most complete game from Bethlehem Steel FC all year. Full stop. After a big win over Charleston and an even bigger draw against Charlotte, Brendan Burke didn’t even mention Toronto FC II’s standing in the Eastern Conference all week in preparation for a difficult match. Toronto didn’t make it easy, at all. Some absolutely stunning distribution from the backline of Matt Real, Hugh Roberts, Auston Trusty and Aaron Jones was the highlight for Steel in the first half. The chances were ruined by some questionable offside calls, but Bethlehem kept plugging away. Their best chance was right before stoppage time when Adam Najem fought off two defenders (a feat for him in and of itself) before hitting the far side post of Angelo Cavalluzzo’s goal.
Not that Toronto didn’t get chances. After a sloppy and disjointed first half, Jason Bent’s side looked like they were turning into the giant killer we have seen them become. They’re
slow deliberate on the ball, whether it’s drawing fouls and cards or trying to pressure Matt Real into getting his second yellow, the first half closed with a certain sense of urgency from both sides. The second half pretty much confirmed it.
The game started to get opened up. Toronto found some more space on the Bethlehem defense due to some early cards in the first half, and if I trust James Chambers’ post game scouting of Toronto (you should always trust James Chambers) the Junior Reds sat back a bit more.
Enter the 56th minute. Malik Johnson took a good ball from Cavalluzzo and drove into the heart of the Steel defense, but his effort from outside the box was wide of the post. Right on the other end for Steel it was Adam Najem finding Chris Nanco, who picked out a looping ball and found Cory Burke who finished far post on the volley. Steel were coasting to a win until there was some controversy. Matt Real basically set a pick right outside the box, causing Jordan McCrary to tumble over him, sending both men to the floor. There’s no charging in soccer so I’m fine with the foul call. That being said the spot of the foul is up for debate. The head official had a conference with his AR on that side of the field (far side if you watch the highlights or replay) and confirmed it was a penalty so, no use complaining now. Mitch Taintor stepped up and buried the pen just under Jake McGuire’s outstretched arm.
Mitch Taintor then blew kisses to the crowd. Never blow kisses to the away crowd. Reading too much into a gesture, Steel knew they could pull out the win. Enter the skipper. This is such a smart sequence from everyone involved, so I’m going to leave the video down below if you want to watch a clever build up.
Long story short, Cory Burke wins a penalty (his sixth drawn penalty all time) and James Chambers steps up and converts. Steel retake the lead 2-1. Seeing out a win is huge but just in case things were in doubt, Chris Nanco made the most of a late chance. Chris said he doesn’t enjoy scoring any more or any less against teams from his home province (Ontario) but he did say he joked around that he had to get one against TFC II before the match started. He scored a stunner against Ottawa last week and followed it up with a neat little finish in stoppage time against Toronto this week. That pushed Bethlehem up to a 3-1 lead and after the whistle, good for sixth in the East, ahead of last year’s championship winning New York Red Bulls II and Open Cup darling FC Cincinnati.
Steel will come out with what should be an interesting line up and a decent chance to try and make a statement when they travel to Charlotte Wednesday night. We’ll have you covered for that one too. Until then, let’s just enjoy sixth.