Bethlehem Steel kicked off a busy preseason with a soggy match against NPSL side Motown FC Saturday afternoon at YSC Sports in Wayne.
Sure, the final score was 4-3 in favor of the team from Morristown, New Jersey but really, preseason results aren’t a fair indicator of how things are going to shake out come March. That being said, let’s talk about some things that stood out during the game.
Bethlehem ran (mostly) 15 minute intervals between two sides. The first side was a nice blend of USL and Academy kids and mirrored something that you’d see up at Goodman Stadium. Tomas Romero in net, Seth Kuhn, Matt Danilack, Brandon Aubrey, and Matt Mahoney as a back four, James Chambers and Mike Catalano holding mids with Chris Nanco playing attacking mid, with wingers Issa Rayyan and Tonny Temple on either side of Brandon Allen.
Out of that bunch, Matt Danilack and Brandon Aubrey were incredibly smooth, with Aubrey handling the role of playmaker from the center back pairing. Not that he was allowed all the fun in that regard, as he established a quick and reliable connection with James Chambers that seemed to benefit both men. Speaking of, Chambers was in midseason form early on, not only spraying balls around the park but he lined up a screamer after a half clearance and put Bethlehem in front early 1-0.
In addition, Duke University commit Issa Rayyan looked promising in his action for the USL outfit, constantly causing trouble for the Motown defense early in the game. Whether it was due to some slippery conditions or just really good one on one dribbling I suppose is up to interpretation but Rayyan seemed to get into the final third with ease early on. His crossing was a bit suspect and he probably could’ve teed up Brandon Allen for a goal or two early to no avail, but that will improve with time I’m sure.
The second team took the field after the first 15 and Motown seemed to find some really good traction against the largely Academy fueled second set. Matt Nigro was able to beat Romero twice to give Motown a 2-1 lead in this frame, with his first goal being a bit of a change up that beat Romero clean as the young keeper was well off his line and caught flat footed. Not that Tomas had a bad game really, and his ability to communicate with two full sets of different players is a bigger takeaway then his save percentage. Also his distribution was simple, effective and risk free by and large.
Bethlehem’s second unit would score twice on the afternoon, with trialist forward Elvis Amoh taking a wide ball inside, cutting a defender and finishing low to his right for a very pretty goal for the deceptively quick striker. Also, not to be left out on the night Aidan Apodaca got his goal in what was a very stellar outing, pouncing on a 50/50 through ball and turning in his shot pretty close to where Amoh had success earlier. Apodaca had a very strong game, showing he could do it all, he’s got a good amount of pace as well as some sneaky strength to keep bigger defenders off of him and his late goal was a reward for a hard shift against Motown. Apodaca almost found Amoh late but Elvis’s glancing header was just nodded over the bar, giving FC Motown the 4-3 victory.
After what I thought was a solid contest, I asked Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke how they settled on FC Motown for a friendly.
“[FC Motown] reached out to us before and we watched how they were progressing as a group in their league,” he said. “They have progressed into the U.S. Open Cup and lost to Rochester last year so that tells you that they have a lot of motivated players who play at a decent level and that is what we wanted out of our first game. Some mix of experience and motivation so we got a really good, high-intensity game but never out of control.”
Worth noting, Motown is coached by former NYRB Sacir Hot and has former Harrisburg City Islander winger Mike Olla among its ranks. Most people don’t think much of NPSL besides maybe a college offseason home but Motown have several guys that have been pro players at different levels, using this opportunity to develop further and hopefully make it back up the ranks.
Bethlehem will look to improve on a solid showing against FC Motown with a match against Junior Lone Star’s U-23 side Saturday the 17th at 2 p.m. That’s also free and open to the public, so, definitely come by and see the guys in action while they’re pretty close to the King of Prussia area.
Bethlehem Steel FC Lineup
First half Starters (Group 1, combined to play 45 minutes in total)
Tomas Romero#; Seth Kuhn#, Brandon Aubrey, Matt Danilack*, Matt Mahoney; James Chambers, Mike Catalano*, Chris Nanco; Issa Rayyan#, Tonny Temple#, Brandon Allen
Second half Starters (Group 2, combined to play 45 minutes in total)
Tomas Romero#; Mickey George**, Maxi Schenfeld**, Ben Ofeimu#, Nyk Sessock#; Daniel Bowkett**, AJ Paterson**, Darius Lewis# (Elvis Amoh**); Khesanio Hall**, Jeremy Rafanello#, Aidan Apodaca*.
(# Academy player, * Unsigned draft pick, ** Trialist)