In the First Round of the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs, Bethlehem Steel FC had to take on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in Highmark Stadium. It was a night of firsts for both clubs, as Pittsburgh was hosting a home-playoff match for the first time in club history and Steel FC earned their first all-time playoff win. What made it better was that it all started with a stunning free-kick from Steel captain James Chambers.
With the score tied 1-1 after 90 minutes, the match went to extra time. Steel FC looked down and out when the Riverhounds knocked home a go-ahead goal. Four minutes later, though, a foul near the top of the box gave James Chambers a free-kick and a chance to drag his team back from the brink. It was a huge moment for the Steel FC captain. “I was confident of hitting the target, but just wanted to make sure there was enough power to beat the keeper,” said Chambers. “Thankfully it went in.”
Chambers scored his equalizer in the 109th minute of the match, making the score 2-2 and eventually securing a penalty-kick shootout. The 32-year-old Irishman knew how important his goal was to the team, stating that “Obviously it’s getting late in extra time, so I knew that was a big moment to get us to penalties.”
It was made even more special by his teammates. Chambers was able to celebrate with his teammates following the goal and helped keep their dreams of a playoff win alive.
"When we tied the game up and then it went to overtime they scored... you always want to believe but at the same time, you're thinking in the back of your head the game's over," Center back Ben Ofeimu said later. "But Chambo comes up big for us. That's a free kick that I probably won't forget."
When asked what it meant to him, Chambers noted that “It was fantastic! It really was up there as a highlight for me since I’ve been with the Steel. Seeing the players’ and the staff’s reactions was amazing.”
Following a penalty-kick shootout in which Chambers converted his opportunity and the Steel won 8-7, the club had earned the first playoff win in organization history. Though Steel FC would lose in the next round to eventual USL Cup Champions Louisville City FC, history and memories had both been made that night in Pittsburgh. Not only did the Steel earn their first playoff win in club history, but it came at the expense of a rival.
James Chambers and Bethlehem Steel FC take on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in a rematch of last season’s playoff showdown on Saturday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. ET at Talen Energy Stadium. Tickets for this match are still available here. The match will also be broadcast on ESPN+.