While they didn’t get all three points, Bethlehem Steel FC snapped a two-game scoreless streak and played so well as a group, head coach Brendan Burke kept his starting XI on the field for 90 minutes.
“At one point I look to the bench and I said ‘Is there a guy out there that doesn’t still deserve to be on the field?’” Burke said after the 2-2 draw with Pittsburgh Riverhounds. “The entire staff said no way, let them finish the game.”
Burke did sub academy forward Shanyder Borgelin on in the 90th minute but left his other four subs on the bench for the night.
Forwards Michee Ngalina and Faris had the goals, Union goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel made his second penalty kick on a controversial handball whistled against Anthony Fontana and Issa Rayyan and Zach Zandi both recorded their first career assists.
Rayyan’s assist was a perfectly placed cross from the right flank that Faris was able to head home at the far post past West Chester, Pa. native Kyle Morton in goal in the 21st minute. It canceled out Pittsburgh’s opener in the fifth minute when Ryan James’ cross got through traffic to an unmarked Kevin Kerr at the far post.
Ngalina had a goal of the week-worthy strike in the 36th minute when he played give-and-go with Zandi and beat Morton with a pretty toe-poke.
Rayyan had another excellent ball sent into the box early in the second half that led to a penalty shout when Faris appeared to have been taken down. Yet another penalty shout came when Ngalina was shoved down in the box.
The Riverhounds equalized at the hour mark off a corner kick when Joe Greenspan beat Coronel with a header off the kick from Kernardo Forbes. Coronel came off his line to try to get to the ball but the 6-foot-6 Greenspan was able to beat Ben Ofeimu to the spot and head it past Coronel, who had five saves on the night in his second start for Steel and third overall since joining the Union on loan from Red Bull Salzburg.
First-team players Anthony Fontana and Matt Real also featured in the match. Real slid over into center back to pair with Ofeimu, enabling Walter Cortés to get his second straight start.
The Hounds had a great chance to retake the lead late when Volesky was played in with a great ball from substitute Anthony Velarde but Coronel was able to get a hand on the shot attempt and James Chambers cleared the ball off the line.
The Steel countered with their own bid for a winner when Chavany Willis fed a ball into the box Ngalina was able to run onto, but his shot went wide of the target. Two minutes later, Ngalina ran through the Hounds defense and set up Faris for an attempt in the box but Morton was up to the task to deny the chance.
The Steel are now 1-2-1 overall with a trip to Kansas to face Swope Park Rangers on the schedule for next weekend.
More important than the record, however, is the noticeable cohesion and confidence that was on display Saturday night.
“It felt a lot better,” Zandi said post-game. “This was the first time we were really all together, all cohesive and all on the same page. I think the last game was the first time that Michee and Faris were together with me and [Anthony] Fontana. So just building that chemistry, all that stuff is starting to come.”