Needing a win at home in a tight playoff race, Bethlehem Steel FC picked up a dominant 4-0 win over Toronto FC II with the club’s youngest ever starting XI for their annual #GoGold match for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation on Saturday afternoon.
With the first team expected to play some reserves in today’s match against Sporting Kansas City just three days before the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final in Houston, head coach Brendan Burke’s starting lineup had just two current first team players — Anthony Fontana and Jake McGuire. Brenden Aaronson made his first start since signing a pro contract that will see him added to the first team roster in 2019.
“We started the youngest team that we’ve ever started in a league match and we won 4-0 against a team that drew at New York 3-3, 4-3 at Cincinnati; they are no pushover,” Head coach Brendan Burke said after the match. “Really happy with the effort, the energy and the concentration level of the performance today.”
Faris, who was in training with the first team earlier this week, opened the scoring just 61 seconds in when Prosper Chiluya threaded a ball through to him that the 18-year-old was able to finish for the earliest goal in club history.
Michee Ngalina doubled the lead just after halftime with his fifth of the season off an assist from Aaronson and later set up Chris Nanco for the fourth goal of the day just 28 seconds after the Toronto native had checked into the game. Captain James Chambers converted a PK in the 57th minute after Matt Mahoney was taken down in the box.
With the win — a club record 13th of the season — the Steel snapped a two-game losing streak and kept pace with a crowded playoff field. The Steel are in fifth place on 45 points, but are just four points clear of ninth place North Carolina FC, which is below the line with 41 points but has two games in hand on the Steel and sixth place Indy Eleven.
“We started well, you don’t start terrific in the first minute but Faris put in a great goal and maybe it calmed some nerves for some of the younger guys who knew it was a big game for us and knew we needed the three points,” Chambers said. “We kicked on from there but it’s all about starting, if we didn’t get the goal, I think we were in the right frame of mind and started with the right energy that a goal would have come eventually.”
Steel next hit the road with a game next Sunday in Ottawa, followed by a trip to Indianapolis, and their final regular season match back at home against Tampa Bay Rowdies on October 14.