A second-half comeback started by a free kick goal from captain James Chambers in his 100th start and capped off by a late equalizer credited to Shanyder Borgelin earned a shorthanded Bethlehem Steel FC side a spirited 3-3 draw in North Carolina on Saturday night.
Missing Faris and Jamoi Topey to suspension, Chavany Willis and Nathan Harriel to international duty and Selmir Miscic with the first team playing a friendly back in Chester, the visitors looked overmatched early by the more seasoned North Carolina team, falling behind 2-0 in the first 20 minutes on goals from Austin da Luz and Robert Kristo.
Yomi Samuele Scintu, who has been limited by injury in his first season with the Steel, pulled a goal back just before the halftime with his first in a Steel uniform. Issa Rayyan, slotted in at right back, played a ball into the box that Scintu was able to get to with a slide and knock in to cut the deficit in half.
“I’m very happy about my first goal because I haven’t scored yet,” Scintu said after the match. “I’m very happy about that, but I’m happier that we drew after we were 3-1 down. It was a good performance.”
North Carolina regained the two-goal advantage through Kristo’s second just after the break when he capitalized on a mistake by Steve Kingue, but it was Zach Zandi drawing another free kick from a dangerous spot that started the rally. Chambers did well to take the free kick to bring the Steel back within a goal on a well-placed strike.
Burke brought on Borgelin in the 74th minute and Danny Flores for his USL Championship debut six minutes later. Borgelin replaced 15-year-old Patrick Bohui, who put in another decent shift in his second straight start, and was able to get himself involved in the attack and eventually score his first professional goal in the 84th minute.
The equalizer came through some pretty passing from Zandi and Cole Turner in the box who played a little give-and-go that ended up with Turner sending a ball across the face of goal that bounced off a couple North Carolina defenders on its way in off Borgelin.
“I just went in, tried to hunt the ball and when it came to me I put it away,” Borgelin said after the match. “It feels really good and hopefully I can get more in the future.”
Burke sounded like a proud father after the match.
“You know we’re the second youngest team ever to play in this league, so to show that kind of character I think is the most important thing,” Burke said. “We had guys literally run until they threw up on the field, so I know my guys are working for us.”
The Steel are eight points back of the playoff line with eight games to play. More importantly than where they sit in the standings is the experience and confidence the young Steel squad can take away from another positive result.
“So we are developing potential stars of the future for MLS, but they’re not that yet,” Burke said. “We have to keep that in focus for the players and the staff on a regular basis. So the response you talk about from our 18 year old center back who trips on the ball and gives away the third goal to then dominate every dual he was in for the rest of the night, that’s massively impressive to me and shows me that he will eventually be ready for a bigger environment. He’s just not yet.”
Up next, the Steel head out to Indianapolis for a Saturday game against Indy Eleven before returning home for a midweek match against Loudoun United at Talen Energy Stadium on September 18 at 7:30 p.m.