Bethlehem Steel came out of the gate firing on all cylinders in what was their most complete performance since they began playing at Goodman Stadium three years ago. Capped off by a Brandon Allen brace, Steel cruised to a 4-1 win over a Richmond side that just didn’t seem up to the task today in what Bethlehem hopes can be a marker for what they can do this year.
Thanks to an impressive amount of pressure on the wings by first-team loanees Eric Ayuk and Marcus Epps, Steel were in control of the ball for a good majority of the first half. Shortly after the 20-minute mark, Matt Mahoney floated a ball in that puzzled Richmond ‘keeper Travis Worra, who palmed it away toward the near post. Unfortunately for Worra, Eric Ayuk read the rebound well and pounced on the ball, besting the DC United loanee from Lancaster and giving Steel the 1-0 advantage.
From there Bethlehem wouldn’t let up. Matt Real blazed a shot off the crossbar, with mere inches separating the full back from finding the crucial second goal. That being said, just before the 40-minute mark, Derrick Jones made one of those bombing runs that have everyone yearning for him to find his swagger at the next level. After a direct pass from Marcus Epps, Jones picked his head up, cut through four Richmond defenders and beat Worra in the bottom left corner of the net. DJ had a great game, linking well next to captain James Chambers, but his individual effort here stands out as something that the Union organization hopes he can pull off more consistently. Bethlehem went into the break comfortably up 2-0.
Richmond looked to settle down a bit more and not give up possession as easily in the early stages of the second half. Honestly, the pace slowed down to a Kickers-favoring grind. They wanted to lull Steel to sleep and try and catch them out over the top. Richmond got their goal, but probably not how they drew it up. Former West Chester United and Villanova University midfielder Oscar Umar decided to have a go from about 25 yards out. Apparently clipping Mark McKenzie, Umar’s shot just beat out John McCarthy to get the Kickers back into things at 2-1. That’s when Bethlehem asserted themselves.
Brandon Allen was slated to come into this Steel side to score somewhere close to the 20 goals the club lost when Cory Burke moved up to the Union and Seku Conneh made the move to South Korea. He has a reputation as a lethal goal scorer and someone who can find the net from just about anywhere. Brandon proved he could do that on Sunday afternoon. Coming just in the last half-hour alone, he managed 12 touches, five of which came inside the 18-yard box. His first goal with his new side wasn’t exactly poetry in motion. After Travis Worra did well to win the ball away from Derrick Jones with a last ditch stop on the breakaway, Brandon Allen collected the ball, took a few touches, opened up space for himself from about 19 yards and slid the ball past a marooned Worra to make it 3-1.
For Allen’s second goal, Mike Catalano (in his pro debut) made a nifty move to shake off one defender before teeing up Allen on a breakaway. Not content to just score normally, Allen proceeded to do this. Watch the video below because I honestly can’t tell you how this happened.
Your final on the day 4-1. Next weekend, Bethlehem take on the Rowdies in Tampa Bay next Sunday in what should be a really good test for a strong Steel team.
- Richmond didn’t have the services of new loanee/USL all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly, a huge loss for Richmond, who couldn’t get much going offensively with Heviel Cordoves. Head coach Leigh Cowlishaw also said that they were working Giuseppe Gentile into a more attacking midfield role, though the former Puerto Rico FC stand out only saw about a half hour of playing time. In short, Richmond wasn’t at full strength here.
- Marcus Epps was a handful. When the dynamic winger can really master his first few touches on the ball, he might turn into a legitimate killer off the bench for the Union. If the first team feel like he needs to develop that trait in USL, Epps is due for a banner year.
- In his post game presser Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke used the word marker a lot. While he referenced a white board once, he was more talking about how this game against Richmond doesn’t have to be an exception for his side. They feel like they can come out and do this week in and week out. They’ll get a chance to do that next week in a big test against Tampa Bay.