Sergio Santos capped off his half-hour shift on rehab assignment with Bethlehem Steel with a stoppage time winner in a seven-goal game in Kansas City on Saturday.
The Brazilian who last played in a 2-0 loss for the Philadelphia Union at Children’s Mercy Stadium last month before suffering a hip flexor injury, was able tap home a rebound off a James Chambers shot in second half stoppage time to lead the Steel to their second win of the season and first since the season opener in Birmingham.
Faris and Ben Ofeimu also found the back of the net for the Steel, which tied the game at 3-3 on an own goal off a deflected cross from Matt Real in the 78th minute. Swope Park had the lead twice, opening the scoring in the 19th minute on a strike from Ethan Vanacore-Decker and again just before halftime through Jerome Ngom-Mbekeli. Ngom-Mbekeli struck again in the 57th minute.
“I think it was entertaining for the neutral to be honest,” said captain James Chambers, who was credited with two assists on the day. “I don’t think we were great; I think we were pretty poor to be honest, but to come on the road and have a comeback like that is pretty good. We’ve been known to do that in the past. We have that never-say-die attitude and it’s great to see these lads coming in and adopting that approach.”
Ofeimu, who was credited with an assist on Faris’s goal in a scramble off a corner kick inside the six, pulled a goal back with a strong header on a Chambers corner kick in the 73rd minute. The corner was set up by some good work from Santos to pick off a pass deep in Swope Park territory and then play Issa Rayyan into the box. Santos had a penalty shout earlier in the match when he appeared to be dragged down after being played into the box by some nice combination play off a turnover from James Chambers and Faris.
Saturday’s match was the first for the Steel against a fellow MLS affiliate this season. In addition to Santos, first team players Anthony Fontana, Matt Real and Matt Freese were all in the starting lineup. Cole Turner made his second start as the lone academy amateur to play for the Union (Kris Shakes and Patrick Bohui were on the bench) while Graham Smith was the only SKC loanee for the hosts, which gave professional debuts to 16-year-old goalkeeper Max Trejo and 17-year-old midfielder Jake Davis.
“We warned our team coming in that they were an excellent technical team, well coached in building out of the back and they ripped us apart twice in the first half for those goals,” Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “They were well-deserved goals; I take nothing away from them. Then in the second half, the game got a little bit chippy, a little bit stretched and turned into a track meet. Obviously happy to finish it the way we did.”
The Steel return to Chester on Saturday to host Charleston Battery at 7:30 p.m.