A strong defensive performance highlighted by a goal-line clearance in the 68th minute gave Bethlehem Steel FC a hard-won point on the road against third-place Nashville SC on Saturday night.
Nashville looked poised to score a late goal in the 68th minute when former Steel left back Taylor Washington crossed the ball and found the head of Lebo Moloto. Moloto had his header deflected toward the goal by Steel keeper Todd Morton when Walter Cortés made the play of the game with a bicycle kick to clear the ball off the cross bar and out of harm’s way.
“Unbelievable, otherwise that was a goal and I don’t know how he did it; I still don’t know,” Morton said of the play. “I saw it, it was going in as I was spinning backwards and I would have been devastated if that went in. He was unbelievable there.”
The Steel absorbed some additional pressure from Nashville for the final 20 minutes — they controlled nearly 70 percent of the possession and outshot the Steel 19-4 — but ultimately held on for Morton’s first professional clean sheet. The West Chester, Pa. native playing in his second game for the Steel came up with seven saves on the day.
“The guys in front of them were committed to keeping the ball out in wide areas,” head coach Brendan Burke said of the defense in the team’s fourth shutout of the season. “It was a collective effort, but I thought that the defensive unit reacted well over and over again when there were emergency defending situations.”
While they earned a point in a tough place to play, the Steel were kept off the board for the third straight game since their 1-0 win in Louisville.
The Nashville game did mark the return of some key attacking pieces with Faris and Michee Ngalina both playing in the game, which was Ngalina’s first since June 15 and the first action for Faris since July 10. First team players Matthew Real and Anthony Fontana also played in the game with Real recording a game-high five tackles.
Cole Turner and Ben Ofeimu were both out serving suspensions. Turner for yellow card accumulation and Ofeimu for a red card against Hartford Athletic. The Steel return home on August 25 to host Birmingham Legion at Talen Energy Stadium at 6 p.m.