It wasn’t pretty — especially in the first half — but Bethlehem Steel FC managed to earn themselves a point on a down night against Atlanta United 2 thanks to a set piece equalizer in the second half from Jamoi Topey and some strong goalkeeping from Tomás Romero.
Topey, the 19-year-old Jamaican international center back, leveled the score in the 64th minute when he got on the end of Matt Real’s low curling free kick and banged it home on the far post.
“I’ve been working on that ball a lot since the beginning of the season,” Real said after the match about his assist. “I didn’t see much, I just look for an area and I try to put it there and the most dangerous spot is sometimes in between the six and the penalty spot. I’m happy the ball was able to make that route and get [Jamoi] Topey on the end of it with a great finish.”
The match was Real’s last before leaving for international duty with the United States at the U20 World Cup in Poland. Steel FC forward Saed Diaz was already in Poland with the Panama team.
Topey’s goal ended up being enough to earn the Steel a point on a night when the visitors dominated possession and had multiple opportunities to take all three points. Romero made a few big time saves to keep Atlanta from finding a second.
Atlanta United 2 also missed a penalty in the first half. Former Union Academy forward Yosef Samuel, who was taken down by Topey in the box, had his spot kick carom off the post and hit off Romero before being cleared out of harm’s way by Steve Kingue.
The visitors struck in the 11th minute off a corner kick when Jack Metcalf connected with Laurence Wyke and continued to pour the pressure on looking for the illusive second goal. Atlanta outshot the Steel 18-9, edged them 6-4 on shots on goal and had 63 percent of the possession for the night.
Michee Ngalina, who was signed to a first team deal last week, didn’t see a lot of the ball and the midfield was missing Zach Zandi, who is out with a foot injury. Academy midfielder Cole Turner was also unavailable because USL decided to recognize a red card suspension he received last weekend in the Development Academy.
“It’s difficult because we were really poor for almost the entire first half and a good portion in the second half,” head coach Brendan Burke said. “We are the youngest team in country and we looked like it tonight. We didn’t have a lot of solutions for the game in the first half and credit to Atlanta [United 2], they were very good, they moved the ball well, they were quick on it, they combined well and they kept the field wide open. It was difficult for us, a couple people missed assignments and pressing queues and once that happens it can snowball a little bit.”
First team defender Olivier Mbaizo joined Real and Ngalina in the lineup. Academy forward Patrick Bohui came on at the hour mark for his third appearance of the season. Faris drew a game high seven fouls on the night and led the team with four shots.
The Steel are unbeaten in three games against fellow MLS affiliates this season. They posted a 4-3 win over Swope Park Rangers on the road and a 3-3 draw with Loudoun United at Audi Field last Friday.
The Steel host Ottawa Fury on Sunday night at 6 p.m. at Talen Energy Stadium. The Fury are two points ahead of the Steel in the standings in ninth place with two games in hand.