A five-game winless streak came to an end in the rain on Sunday for the Bethlehem Steel FC, which came from behind to pick up their second win against the same Richmond Kickers team they beat to open the season.
Santi Moar led the way with a goal and an assist to open his 2018 account and Matt Real and Chris Nanco both added goals in the 3-1 win.
Adam Najem, who had an assist on Moar’s goal, nearly opened the scoring early when he set up a headed attempt from Moar but it went down as one of a club record 30 shots (10 on frame).
The Kickers took the lead through patient play down the left flank when Austin Yearwood set Heviel Cordoves up for a one-time shot that beat a diving Jake McGuire in the 16th minute. Cordoves had subbed into the match six minutes earlier for an injured Guiseppe Gentile.
The shot on goal was the only the Kickers would produce in the game, a complete contrast to the offense generated by the Steel, which hit woodwork again when Najem was set up by Moar in the box but were finally able to capitalize a couple minutes later on a pretty run forward by Moar that led to left back Matt Real’s 29th minute equalizer.
“We hit the crossbar maybe two or three times in the first half and there were shots being blocked inside the box and we just told the guys to keep at it,” head coach Brendan Burke said.
They certainly kept at it in the second half, outshooting the Kickers 18-4 and gained the advantage for good when Najem connected with Moar off a quickly taken corner kick.
The Steel added a third when Moar fed a ball forward into the box to Aidan Apodaca, who went down in the box on a challenge from loaned D.C. United goalkeeper Travis Worra. Nanco converted the ensuing penalty kick.
Worra, a Lancaster native, was one of two Hempfield High School graduates on the field at Goodman Stadium on Sunday. Drew Skundrich made his professional debut in the match in the Steel midfield.
”It was amazing to get my debut and get a start here at home, the fans were great,” Skundrich said. “They were cheering and I talked to them after the game and they were saying Lancaster pride so it was great to be out here and get my debut in.”
While Skundrich and fellow rookie Apodaca both contributed, it was second-year midfielders Najem and Moar who ultimately made the biggest impact on the final score.
“This is what we needed which was to put the ball into the back of the net. Today we had a lot of chances in the first half that didn’t end up on the scoresheet,” said Moar, a 2017 Rookie of the Year finalist. “Crossbar, posts and clearances but finally the fortune came to our side we were able to capitalize on those chances.”
Six Philadelphia Union players saw the field in the match with Derrick Jones once again wearing the captain’s arm band. In addition to the aforementioned Najem, McGuire and Real, Olivier Mbaizo and Fabian Herbers also started. Goalkeeper Kris Shakes was the lone academy player in the 18 with the U19 team away in Massachusetts for a weekend doubleheader.
Like the first team, which plays again Wednesday and Saturday, the Steel have a busy stretch of three games in seven days, beginning with Charleston Battery away on Saturday, followed by New York Red Bulls II at home the following Wednesday and Indy Eleven away three days later.
”We’re in the mix, we’re in there throwing punches with everybody,” Burke said. “That’s where we were last year and I’m glad we’re kinda at the same point this year. In reality, we should be another win or two on the board already and we are coming through a really difficult part of the schedule. The next seven-day stretch where we have three games with Charleston, New York and Indy will be a vicious one and hopefully, we can take six points out of those three games. That will be the goal for us and our focus after tonight will be that.”