Bethlehem Steel FC knew that this day would come. After hard-fought games that they were more unlucky to lose points from than anything else, Bethlehem finally showed what a lot of people have been expecting from this side in 2018.
In what would’ve been a frightening signal of intent Steel only took 40 seconds to slip behind the Baby Bulls back line, with hot hand Cory Burke winding up on the end of a Michee Ngalina cross that very well could have stunned the Jamaican, who unfortunately only claimed the crossbar.
Red Bull II woke up a bit after that and Ethan Kutler and Ben Mines found space and started to ask some questions of the Steel defense and John McCarthy early on. McCarthy stood strong and the back line held together to keep Red Bull at bay. Sensing a momentum change, Bethlehem pressed high against the NYRB system and were rewarded. Ryan Meara’s clearance was shanked and after Fabian Herbers did well to squeeze a ball to Adam Najem, Najem cycled the ball to Michee Ngalina and the young winger hit a ball that Meara unsuccessfully sprawled at, giving Bethlehem the 1-0 lead late in the first half.
Red Bull II head coach John Wolyniec wasn’t thrilled with the way things were going and surprisingly enough made two substitutions right on the stroke of the second half. Subbing out Connor Lade and Armando Moreno for Niko De Vero and Brian White, Wolyniec hoped that some fresh legs and their trademark high press would gain traction in the second stanza of a somewhat even game. Unfortunately for Red Bull II, nothing came out the way they planned. Coughing up the ball around midfield, Cory Burke was able to pounce on the errant touch, spring Fabian Herbers and the German did incredibly well to power a ball to the bottom left to put Steel FC in front 2-0. Initially the ball looked to be palmed wide but Herbers just had too much on it for Meara and it deflected off the inside of the post and went in.
Seemingly while being told to slow down, Burke wasn’t quite finished with Red Bull II. After winning a throw in Cory lofted the ball onto the path of Najem who made no mistake and slotted home coolly in stoppage time to increase his damage done against his former side and give Bethlehem a substantial 3-0 lead and subsequent victory. Bethlehem go on this weekend to face Indy XI, who were bested in US Open Cup action by PDL amateurs Mississippi Brilla Wednesday night. Hopefully Steel can add to their momentum in their first trip to Indianapolis on Sunday.
Quick thoughts from the match:
-Just a bit of a criticism off the bat, not sure why Brendan Burke waited so long to use his substitutions. Fabian Herbers on a yellow with two capable wingers on the bench in my opinion should’ve come sooner. I understand wanting to lock a game up before bringing on Tonny Temple, but I think he’s pegged for some big things this year and getting him more minutes in victories might take some pressure off.
-I think everyone in the back four had at least one crucial tackle as Olivier Mbaizo picked a few pockets in the box and Brandon Aubrey had a solid game blocking some potential big shots.
-Michee Ngalina blew me away. Sure he’ll get the (deserved) plaudits for being the youngest goal scorer in Steel history (taking that title away from goal scoring machine Matt Real) but I honestly don’t think there was a ball he couldn’t get to yesterday. I’m not sure if he’s my preferred left wing but every team in USL would kill to have a guy with that kind of speed and footwork off the bench for sure.
-Cory Burke put in one hell of a shift and showed that he can impact a game with his passing, notching two assists in a performance he’ll be disappointed to not score in. I can’t see him playing much more with Steel this year unless (like this week) he’s suspended in MLS play.