Brian Ownby scored a goal each side of halftime and the Bethlehem Steel were unable to mount a comeback like they did a week ago in Pittsburgh in a 2-0 loss to Louisville City FC.
Ownby opened the scoring in the 34th minute off a pass from Oscar Jimenez into the box, where the 28-year-old veteran was able to beat Brandon Aubrey and put the ball past Jake McGuire for the goal.
Chris Nanco, starting in place of the injured Michee Ngalina, nearly leveled the score before halftime with a hard shot Louisville keeper Greg Ranjitsingh was able to leap to get a hand on to keep out. The Steel had a couple more chances off free kicks and Santi Moar hit woodwork on a curling attempt, but the Louisville defense proved insurmountable in the end.
With the Steel pushing forward in search of an equalizer, Ownby was able to beat Aubrey in a foot race on a counter attack started by Niall McCabe off a turnover and beat McGuire with a flick just before the hour mark of the game. McGuire, who was one of only two current first team players to play in the game (Olivier Mbaizo was the other), made a diving stop to deny Ownby a hat trick in the 73rd minute.
FULL TIME:@loucityfc (2) - @BSteelFC (0)— USL (@USL) October 28, 2018
Recap → https://t.co/XOcAwQdr60#USLPlayoffs | #LOUvBST pic.twitter.com/xwlmuABsFO
Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke could be heard throughout the broadcast arguing and swearing at the referees, claiming toward the end of the game that they had “ruined a playoff game.” Afterwards, he apologized for his language but stuck by his feeling that the officiating was poor on the night in a video posted on Twitter.
“I thought we played well, we weren’t sharp in the final third, they were and that was the difference I think, shots ended 14-14,” Burke said. “It was just a frustrating night in general but it was a tremendous season. You had a lot of growth from individual players, a lot of growth as a club, we won our first playoff game this year which is a fantastic accomplishment, really proud of the staff and really proud of the players.”
Burke was facing his former boss when he was an assistant coach with the first team in the game in John Hackworth, who was hired in August to fill the vacancy in Louisville created when James O’Conner was hired by Orlando City.
With the win, Louisville will host New York Red Bulls II for a chance to return to the USL Cup final they won last year.
Despite ending the season with a playoff loss for the second straight year in Louisville, the Steel still put together a fine season, advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time after earning its highest playoff seeding while setting single-season records for wins (14), goals (58), assists (46) and wins at home (eight).
Selmir Miscic, the 15-year-old midfielder signed by the Steel from the academy last month, had a milestone of his own during the game, making the game day 18 for the first time after watching last week’s game in Pittsburgh in street clothes.
Miscic, along with starters Brenden Aaronson and Ben Ofeimu, will both be available for selection next weekend when the U19 team hosts the New York Red Bulls at the Power Training Complex at 3 p.m.