The 4-3 final displaying on the scoreboard at the end of Bethlehem Steel FC’s match against New York Red Bulls II on Wednesday night was a bitter pill to swallow for a team that had built a 3-1 lead going into the final 15 minutes of play.
But even in the disappointment of a total collapse, the attacking brilliance of Faris and Issa Rayyan that staked the Steel to that lead after going down early should not be overlooked.
After former Union player Marcus Epps set up Tom Barlow to open the scoring in the 15th minute, Faris collected a chipped ball from Anthony Fontana off his chest, shook off his defender with a slick turn and buried the shot far post to tie the game at 1-1.
The goal was the sixth of the season for the 19-year-old Cameroonian, who had three goals in his first season with the club in 2018.
With the score tied at the break, Rayyan gave the Steel the lead seconds into the second half when he was set up with a pass from James Chambers he was able to bring down and then use his skill to get by defenders and put the ball away. Twelve minutes later, Rayyan was able to put a rebound in the back of the net after a flurry of chances in front of goal.
The goal was Rayyan’s third in three games. Like in his ACC Freshman of the Year season with Duke last fall, it was a move from right back to the attack that has seen Rayyan make repeated appearances on the score sheet.
“Playing up top I got my first goal and then now I think I just got momentum,” Rayyan said. “The first half was a little shaky, I wasn’t on the ball and then the second half started and we talked over some things over at halftime and me and Faris talked about how we wanted to stay close together and I got the ball in the midfield and Faris made a run to open up space and I was able to take a touch and put it into the corner.”
In addition to playing off each other — Faris has a bigger body and can hold up play where Rayyan is shiftier on the ball — Faris noted that the communication was key in their partnership on Wednesday night.
“There was good communication between us since the beginning of the week when we started practicing,” he said. “Great performance from Issa tonight putting us in front but then a sad night for us in the end.”
Stretches of quality soccer either preceding or following mental lapses has been the story of the Steel’s season and is more or less expected when fielding a historically young lineup. The blown lead in the final 15 minutes was as much a team problem as it was any individual gaffes.
“I think the reaction after their goal from us was we were sleepy,” Faris said. “It has to be better. There always will be things like that in games and we have to play 90 minutes.”
The Steel are off this weekend before traveling to play Louisville City FC next Saturday and then play at Saint Louis FC the following Saturday before returning to Chester for a 5 p.m. game on August 1. After Wednesday’s loss, they sit in 12th place in the East and are -9 in goal differential with a W-D-L record of 5-4-10.