A young Bethlehem Steel FC side snapped a two-game losing streak against the defending USL champion Lousiville City FC on Saturday at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem.
Coming off a 3-1 loss earlier this season in Louisville and a 4-0 loss that knocked the Steel out of the first round of the playoffs last October, the Steel FC back line survived a big test even after the forced substitution for the injured Josh Yaro in the 19th minute.
Yaro was replaced by Ben Ofeimu, the 17-year-old who scored in his Steel FC debut in North Carolina last week. He was one of six teenagers to play in the match, matching a club record set last July. Both Anthony Fontana and Jeremy Rafanello had a chance to play a day after graduating high school from YSC Academy.
Louisville was limited to only two shots on target for the match, both in the second half.
“That’s the top team in our league, you ask any coach in the league, they are the most difficult team to play against because they don’t really make mistakes,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said following the match. “They are intelligent and experienced, they have enough athleticism to break you down and when [Brian] Ownby comes on, that goes through the roof. Just really proud of my guys to give away only two shots on goal against a team of that caliber, especially with so many young faces out there.”
Chris Nanco made his first start of the season up top and led a front three that was all Steel FC players. John McCarthy, Matt Real, Josh Yaro and Fontana were the only first team players in the lineup for the day.
“It’s been a long time coming and it felt good to be able to get a start,” Nanco said. “I thought the team played really well, especially against the defending champions. It was a tough game, it was hot but the team stuck together and stuck to the game plan and it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get three points.”
Louisville City was shut out for just the third time this season — they were shut out two straight matches on the road in early May losses to Indy Eleven and Nashville SC. They were also coming off a thrilling come from behind win over New England Revolution in the Open Cup.
Cameron Lancaster, the team’s leading goal scorer with six, dislocated his shoulder on the collision that knocked Yaro out of the game in the 19th minute.
“I thought we looked very laggy,” Louisville head coach James O’Connor said. “I thought Bethlehem played well, they have some very good young players and a lot of pace on their team. They deserve a lot of credit but I thought for us that we looked tired and it’s understandable after what’s happened midweek.”
Louisville had a couple chances late to steal all three points, but McCarthy denied Devon Williams in the 72nd minute and defender Matt Mahoney made a perfectly timed tackle in the box to shut down Ownby’s late bid for a winner. On the other end, Tonny Temple, a winger from the academy making his third appearance for Steel, floated a header that had the keeper beat but missed wide of the mark.
Up next for the Steel is a road trip Wednesday to FC Cincinnati for the last regular season meeting between the teams before Cincinnati makes the jump to MLS. The teams played to a 1-1 draw at Goodman Stadium in April.