Led by a strong offensive showing, Bethlehem Steel FC picked up its first victory of the season, defeating the Richmond Kickers, 4-1, in the club’s home opener at Goodman Stadium.
Playing on the campus of Lehigh University, Steel FC saw Philadelphia Union midfielders Derrick Jones and Eric Ayuk score first-half goals while forward Brandon Allen tallied a second-half brace in his Steel FC debut.
“Happy that we were so balanced in that performance, I can’t think of one guy that didn’t perform at or close to his peak level of performance,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “Have to walk away happy that this is a really good building block that we laid down today but we understand that we are going to see extremely stiff competition over the next three to five weeks with Tampa and Nashville and others coming through town.”
Steel FC came out establishing their high press early in the contest, pinning the Kickers inside their defensive third for the match’s 20 minutes. The high-intensity paid off in the 24th minute, as Marcus Epps forced a Richmond turnover. After a pattern of passes throughout the midfield, right back Matthew Mahoney sent into the box a cross that was tipped by Kickers’ goalkeeper Travis Worra but directly to Ayuk who tapped it home for Steel FC’s first goal of 2018.
Sixteen minutes later, Steel FC doubled its lead on a thrilling run by the club’s first ever signing from 2016. Collecting a pass from Epps in the midfield, Jones beat four Richmond defenders throughout a 35-yard run before inside the far post.
Richmond battled back into the contest early in the second half, finding their lone goal in the 57th minute as Oscar Umar collected a pass from captain Brian Shriver and fired home from far outside the box.
Steel FC kept its composure and turned to the club’s offseason signing of Allen to round out the match in the final 30 minutes of play. After a strong run by Jones into the Kickers box was saved by Worra coming off his line, Allen collected the loose ball. Finding himself at the edge of the 18-yard box, the 24-year-old took three steps to his left before firing a shot through the defense and inside the left post for his debut goal.
Allen, one of the USL’s most prolific goalscorers, wasn’t done yet. With time winding down, rookie midfielder Mike Catalano played a through ball toward Allen. With a quick touch around the keeper to get to the end line, Allen threaded the ball from the tight angle for the brace.
Steel FC returns to action this weekend, with the club’s first road match at the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, March 24. Kick off from Al Lang Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Bethlehem Steel FC 4, Richmond Kickers 1
Shots: 18-7 (Bethlehem)
Shots On Goal: 6-2 (Bethlehem)
Corners: 2-1 (Bethlehem)
Saves: 2-1 (Richmond)
BST – 24’ Eric Ayuk
BST –40’ Derrick Jones (Marcus Epps)
RIC – 57’ Oscar Umar (Brian Shriver)
BST –64’ Brandon Allen
BST –89’ Brandon Allen (Mike Catalano)
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC STARTING XI
John McCarthy; Matt Real, Mark McKenzie, Brandon Aubrey, Matthew Mahoney; James Chambers, Derrick Jones (Mike Catalano 87’); Eric Ayuk (Santi Moar 69’), Adam Najem, Marcus Epps (Issa Rayyan 83’); Brandon Allen.
Substitutes not used: Tomas Romero, Prosper Chiluya, AJ Paterson, Brenden Aaronson.
RICHMOND KICKERS STARTING XI
Travis Worra; Alex Lee, Meikel Williams, Conor Shanosky, Braeden Troyer; Scott Thomsen, Yudai Imura (Giuseppe Gentile 61’), Oscar Umar, Raul Gonzalez (Bruno Miranda 61’); Brian Shriver (Koby Osei-Wusu 78’), Heviel Cordoves.
Substitutes not used: Trevor Spanenberg, Yomby William, Finnlay Wyatt, Fred Owusu Sekyere.
Weather: 40, sunny, wind NW 12 mph
Officials: Marcos Deoliveira, Craig Lowry (Assistant), Gjovalin Bori (Assistant), Joshua Encarnacion (Fourth Official).
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