While he’s expected to set up goals with crosses much more than he is to score them himself, Bethlehem Steel FC left back Prosper Chiluya made the most of a clearance that came to him all alone about 35 yards out in the 74th minute against Indy Eleven last Saturday.
Striking the ball well with his left foot after stopping it with his right, Chiluya rocketed a shot toward goal that took a bounce on its way in to give the Steel a late lead they would not relinquish and their first road win of the season.
“I always wish to score from far distances like Roberto Carlos in his time and as soon as I saw it coming I was like I think I can hit it and when it went in I was like ‘what?!’ it’s my first goal for the team, praise the Lord,” Chiluya said in an interview after training on Wednesday at YSC Sports.
The goal came four minutes after Zach Steinberger equalized for the home team and ended up securing the team’s second win of the week after a 3-0 win over New York Red Bulls at home.
“I was expecting him to hit it because he has shown that instinct over the last couple weeks to put the ball in dangerous areas,” Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “I did not expect him to hit it as cleanly and as hard as he did and I think he caught everyone in the stadium off guard with that one, including maybe himself.”
Chiluya, who joined the Steel in February on a loan deal from Kafue Celtic FC in his native Zambia after spending time on loan in Cyprus last season, had plenty of people back home take notice.
“I think the whole nation heard about it,” he said. “After the game I checked my phone and I had so many messages and I saw the newspaper (in Zambia) and the front page talking about my goal.”
The win was the second in a row for a Steel FC team (4-4-2) that is starting to hit its stride after dropping points in six of the first eight games. Their first three road games were all losses, including a 3-1 loss in Louisville to the defending USL champions that was particularly hard on the back line.
“I always wish to fight hard even if I don’t have a good game and improve one or two things,” Chiluya said.
Burke said he thought the performance against New York Red Bulls II was a turning point for the 20-year-old defender, who has started all but two of the team’s games this season.
“I think last week points to major progress in his defending,” Burke said. ‘We keep a clean sheet against Red Bull, which is not an easy thing to do and he contributes to the game going forward, he’s starting to win more of his duels. Going out to Indy we had a little bit of a shaky start on that left side but he is a really disciplined hard-working kid who takes information well and he settled into the game and he got his just reward and then some. We’re happy with how he’s progressing.”
Chiluya seems generally happy to be with the team — he admitted that the level of play in the U.S. is higher than he expected before coming here — and his goal celebration is all the proof you need of how meaningful it was for him to score a goal from distance that his Brazilian hero would probably approve.
“It feels so good and builds confidence in the team,” he said.
The Steel will try to keep that momentum going tonight with another road game at Ottawa Fury. Kickoff at TD Place Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.