Fabian Herbers had a goal and a pair of assists, Drew Skundrich made the score sheet for the first time with a goal and assist and Richie Marquez played his first minutes of 2018 in a 4-1 win for the Bethlehem Steel at home on Saturday.
“I thought it was an energetic performance but also a mature one,” head coach Brendan Burke said after the match. “We recognized that we needed to keep the ball because they are a very good possession-oriented team.”
Chris Nanco opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a fine finish off a back-heel flick from Skundrich, who picked up his first professional point on the play. As they have most of the season at Goodman Stadium so far, the Steel were the better team through much of the first half but didn’t add to their lead until just 44 seconds into the second half.
Playing as the lone forward in the 4-2-3-1, Herbers flicked a ball forward with his head to Moar, who did well to create space for himself in the box and beat the keeper to the far post.
The goal was the third of the season for the Spaniard, which is tied with Herbers and Derrick Jones for the team lead. Moar would later return the favor to Herbers off a counter attack to record his team-leading fourth assist of the season in the 80th minute.
Herbers’ other assist came in the 72nd minute. On the play, he received a pass in the box from Olivier Mbaizo and tapped it over to Skundrich, who hit a left-footed shot Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller wasn’t able to keep out. The goal was the first professional goal for Skundrich, a rookie from Lancaster who had nine goals in his college career at Stanford.
“It was good to get on the board and the stat sheet with a goal and assist but there are things that I can still improve upon,” said Skundrich, who made his fifth start and ninth appearance. “In the first half, I could have completed more passes and calmed down but it was good to get the goal and assist and hopefully it keeps getting better from here on out.”
Marquez, who had a sports hernia surgery in March, saw his first game action of 2018, playing the first 45 minutes. It was the fifth Steel appearance for the first team defender, who is the oldest defender on the Union roster at 26. His appearance in the starting lineup meant Matt Mahoney was out of the starting lineup for the first time this season, but the break was short-lived for the second-year defender, who came in to play the second half.
In addition to Marquez and Herbers, first team players Adam Najem, Jake McGuire, Matt Real and Mbaizo played in the game. Tonny Temple, who subbed in for Nanco in the 83rd minute, was the lone academy player in the match.
Charlotte spoiled McGuire’s clean sheet with a goal deep into stoppage time by Jorge Herrera. The win put the Steel back into playoff position and improved their record to 6-5-5.
“I think we are in a great spot right now from a mentality standpoint and that always gives you an opportunity to build on the other stuff,” Burke said.
The Steel travel to City Island on Friday to take on Penn FC for the first of two meetings this season.