Seku Conneh continued his impressive season with his third goal in four matches but a second-half equalizer from Ottawa Fury FC forced Bethlehem Steel FC to settle for a 1-1 draw Sunday evening at Goodman Stadium.
Steel FC dominated possession against in their first meeting against Ottawa, who joined the USL after spending the previous three seasons in the NASL. Steel FC controlled the contest with over 70 percent possession but drew the first time in 2017.
Conneh provided Steel FC with its only goal, scoring his sixth of the season to break the club’s single-season scoring mark. The goal was the Liberian forward’s eighth tally of his career. Ottawa equalized on Montreal Impact loanee Michael Salazar’s goal in the 70th minute to escape with a point.
“That is one of those draws that feels like a loss because we were on top of the game,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “We missed a penalty [kick] early but I thought we played really good soccer. We had over 70 percent of the ball which is rare in any league. Cleary there were two competing styles, they wanted to make it a rugby match and that’s what it looked like so they were successful in that regard. What we could have been better at was our choice of service once we got into the final third. I thought we did a really good job in pattern of play, speed of play to get to the final third but that choice of service wasn’t really dangerous today.”
While fans were still funneling into a rainy Goodman Stadium, the opening minutes were filled with action. Fury FC opened the match with defender Onua Obasi picking up a yellow card just 70 seconds into the contest. A minute later, Ottawa midfielder Andrae Campbell was called for a handball inside the 18-yard-box awarding Steel FC a penalty kick. The play started off a long volley into the box with no Steel FC players around and Campbell swatted the ball down. Jamaican forward Cory Burke added to the drama when his penalty kick was saved by a diving Callum Irving.
Steel FC kept its composure after an intense opening five minutes as the club looked to capitalize. The squad did so in the 28th minute as midfielder Ken Tribbett dribbled around a pair of Ottawa midfielders before laying it off for Conneh. With space toward goal, Conneh rocketed a shot from the top of the box for the match’s opening goal.
Bethlehem nearly doubled its lead in the 38th minute as Marcus Epps found space inside the box. The 22-year-old turned and fired a curling shot but was denied by a diving Irving.
Steel FC continued to push for an insurance goal in the second half with timely Fury FC tackles preventing shots from James Chambers and Conneh. Ottawa looked poised to find the equalizer in the 52nd minute, but recently graduated defender Mark McKenzie showed his pace and delivered a timely block.
After numerous chances, Ottawa found the back of the net in the 70th minute as substitute midfielder Ryan Williams found space along the sideline. The 26-year-old lifted a cross past Steel FC goalkeeper John McCarthy to connect with Salazar for the tying goal.
Bethlehem Steel FC returns to the field next weekend with the start of a three-match road trip that will keep the squad away from home for the rest of June. The trip begins against another new opponent with Steel FC traveling to Saint Louis FC on Sunday, June 11. Kick off from Toyota Stadium is set for 5 p.m. ET.
Bethlehem Steel FC 1, Ottawa Fury FC 1
Shots: 12-9 (Bethlehem)
Shots On Goal: 5-4 (Bethlehem)
Corners: 4-3 (Ottawa)
BST – 28’Seku Conneh (Ken Tribbett)
OTT – 70’ Michael Salazar (Ryan Williams)
OTT – 2’ Onua Obasi (Yellow Card)
BST – 5’ Aaron Jones (Yellow Card)
OTT – 34’ Jonathan Barden (Yellow Card)
BST – 87’ Ken Tribbett (Yellow Card)
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC STARTING XI
John McCarthy; Giliano Wijnaldum (Matt Mahoney 77’), Josh Yaro (Hugh Roberts 82’), Mark McKenzie, Aaron Jones; James Chambers, Ken Tribbett, Adam Najem; Cory Burke (Santi Moar 77’), Marcus Epps, Seku Conneh.
Substitutes not used: Jahmali Waite, Josh Heard, Yosef Samuel, Chris Nanco.
OTTAWA FURY FC STARTING XI
Callum Irving; Onua Obasi, Kyle Venter, Shane McEleney; Andrae Campbell, Sergio Manesio, Gerardo Bruna (Ryan Williams 56’), Jonathan Barden; Sito Seoane (Jimmy-Shammar Sanon 56’), Tucker Hume, Michael Salazar (Jamar Dixon 77’).
Substitutes not used: DavidPaulmin, Eddie Edward, Aron Mkungilwa, Thomas Meilleur-Giguere.
Mark Kadlecik, Victor Vazquez (Assistant), Brian Dipaolo (Assistant), Patrick Casey (Fourth Official)
LVHN TEAM NOTES