Needing only to not lose by three goals to secure a playoff spot, Bethlehem Steel FC clinched a playoff spot the preferred way with a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay Rowdies in the regular season finale on Sunday.
Michee Ngalina scored the game-winner in the 13th minute off an assist from Brenden Aaronson to give the Steel all the offense they needed. The goal was the sixth of the season for the 18-year-old from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 23 appearances this season.
Philadelphia Union goalkeeper John McCarthy made six saves to secure the clean sheet.
McCarthy was one of six first team players in the starting XI (counting Aaronson, who will be added to the first team roster in 2019). Matt Real, Olivier Mbaizo, Anthony Fontana and Fabian Herbers also started. Academy center back Ben Ofeimu made his 10th appearance of the season in the starting XI.
“Today is a celebration of the season, more than just one game,” head coach Brendan Burke said. “Ugly game but we’ll take it anyway it comes and to get three points against a franchise that big [in] your final home game. We’re going into the playoffs happy and energetic which is the best way to go in I think.”
The Steel will travel west to face Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday night to open their second playoff campaign. They lost in the first round to eventual champions Louisville City in their first playoff appearance last season.
Attaboy, @Micheengalina!@BSteelFC are up!#BSTvTBR pic.twitter.com/sfuG2xyTXI— USL (@USL) October 14, 2018