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Steel FC fight back late to draw Red Bulls II

Down a pair of goals with only a couple minutes left to play, Matt Mahoney and James Chambers both scored to steal a point

After a poor first-half performance and a second goal conceded to Stefano Bonomo in the 84th minute, it looked like Bethlehem Steel FC’s strong run of form was going to fizzle out at home on Wednesday.

Substitute Chris Nanco had other ideas, setting up Matt Mahoney’s first professional goal on a corner kick in the 88th minute before delivering a ball through three defenders to the far post for James Chambers to tap in deep into stoppage time to give Steel FC a point.

“We came from behind and we need to do better on that in the future but we’ve put together some good second halves and now we need to convert that to the first half,” Nanco said after the match.

The 2-2 draw extended the Steel’s unbeaten streak to four. Three of those teams are in playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

“What we talked about at halftime was that it was the worst performance we’ve put on in three years in this building and I’m extremely proud of the response in the second half,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “We could have scored multiple goals that we didn’t get but we still got the two that mattered and got ourselves back into the game.”

Five Philadelphia Union players were in the starting lineup, which included John McCarthy, Jack Elliott, Matt Real, Anthony Fontana and Fabian Herbers. Elliott’s appearance was just his second for the Steel and first since he started against FC Cincinnati in the season opener on April 9, 2017.

Bonomo put the visitors on top in the 12th minute, converting from the spot after Brandon Aubrey was whistled for a foul on Ben Mines just inside the 18. The 25-year-old doubled Red Bull II’s lead in the 84th minute off a counter attack.

The goal seemed to have sealed the team’s first road win of the season before Mahoney put away a free header off Nanco’s corner kick to cut the deficit in half.

“Like I spoke about earlier in the week, this is the character of the team and how resilient we are,” Mahoney said. “We had a really poor first half, one of our worst this season but being able to come back especially after being down 2-0 late in the game, speaks volume to the character of our team and what type of group we have.”

The Steel have found a late equalizer to grab a point now in each of their last two games. Herbers scored in the 69th minute to tie the game at 2-2 shortly after FC Cincinnati had taken the lead last week in Cincinnati.

After a friendly on Tuesday against Reading United, the Steel return home on June 30 to host the Charlotte Independence.