West Chester native Todd Morton made eight saves in his professional debut in front of family and friends but Bethlehem Steel were unable to overcome a missed penalty kick in the first half and a sending off in the second half in a 3-0 loss to Hartford Athletic on Thursday.
Morton got the nod to start the game after only a couple training sessions with the team. His acquisition from Real Monarchs was announced by the team earlier in the day Thursday.
“It was incredible,” Morton said of his debut. “You know, I’ve been training the last seven, eight months just for this opportunity. So to be able to get it in my hometown, it’s a dream come true. Although, it’s unfortunate, the result, obviously, but I mean you can’t really ask for more.”
Captain James Chambers had a chance to put the Steel up in the first half from the penalty spot but he had both his initial attempt and a retake (Frederik Due was whistled for leaving his line early) saved. Hartford struck three minutes later when Nicky Downs dispossessed Walter Cortes in a dangerous spot and got the ball to Hugh Alexander Dixon, who crossed it to a wide open Daniel Bedoya in front of goal for the finish to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
Alexander Dixon doubled the lead five minutes after the break when he slipped behind the defense and was able to beat Morton far post on a curling shot. Former Steel FC and Philadelphia Union defender Ray Lee was credited with an assist on the play.
The Steel’s comeback efforts took a blow when Ofeimu was sent off with a second yellow for a foul on Bedoya, who was able to break up a back pass and get behind Ofeimu and still play Alexander Dixon into the box for a shot from a similar spot he scored the goal on that Morton was able to stop.
Wojciech Wojcik put the game away eight minutes later when he was able to beat Real one on one and slide a hard shot past Morton to the left corner. Down a man, Steel wasn’t able to find a goal and ended up as the first ever shutout victim in the Athletic’s first season. In addition to the first half penalty, the Steel’s best chance to score was snuffed out by Due with a nice save on substitute Axel Picazo, who was played into the box on a nice through ball from Issa Rayyan.
The loss was the second straight for the Steel since their 1-0 win on the road over Louisville City. They’ll get the weekend off before heading to Nashville to play Nashville SC on August 10.