On a cold and windy day, Bethlehem Steel FC returned to preseason action with back-to-back matches against in-state rival Harrisburg City Islanders and Notre Dame University. Steel FC emerged with a 1-1 draw against their USL rivals, while Notre Dame found goals late in each half to emerge with 2-1 victory.
“The day gave us everything we hoped it would in terms of the volume of minutes that we were able to evaluate,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “We are getting to the point where we have to narrow the group down so that we can focus on the season ahead. It was great getting to have players join in from the first team and that added some quality in the early part of the second match to go along with our start in the opening match.”
In both matches it was Steel FC opening the scoring in the first half. Against Harrisburg, a turnover in the midfield by James Chambers, created the scoring opportunity. The Irish captain grabbed the ball and delivered a volley over the City Islander goalkeeper to net his first goal of the preseason. Harrisburg City Islanders rebounded in the second half, scoring the equalizer off a corner kick.
Against Notre Dame in the afternoon match, Philadelphia Union players Adam Najem and Marcus Epps provided the lone goal for Steel FC. With the club maintaining its high press that forced Notre Dame in its defensive half, a quick counter attack led to the build. After Santi Moar tracked the ball down the flank, a centering pass to Najem started the offensive attack. With players racing down the field, Najem connected with Epps inside the penalty area. Epps collected the ball and fired the shot into the back of the net for the early 1-0 lead.
Notre Dame’s offense came from junior Jon Gallagher, who netted a brace with both goals coming moments before the referee’s whistle. After a Steel FC foul outside the 18-yard box, Gallagher stepped up and curled a shot past Steel FC goalkeeper Jake McGuire. Gallagher wasn’t done as he ended up on the receiving end of a counter attack with seconds left, scoring his second goal just inside the right post.
“Harrisburg is stronger than they were last season and clearly have the resources to build more meanwhile Notre Dame was extremely organized. Even when we broke them down, they didn’t really break down. Both teams gave us great experiences as we look ahead to the season opener on April 1.”