A win to build on

Bethlehem Steel FC had a tough matchup when they travelled to face Swope Park Rangers at Children’s Mercy Park on April 6, 2019. The club from Kansas had just pulled a draw from their match with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC the weekend before and was looking to take all three points, as was Steel FC. The Rangers struck first in the match off an Ethan Vanacore-Decker goal in the 19th minute. Faris answered for the Steel just eight minutes later, bringing the score to 1-1. Unfortunately for Steel FC, Jerome Ngom-Mbekeli changed that with a 44th-minute goal just before halftime, leaving the visitors down 2-1 with 45 minutes left to play.

“I told them that the second half only had to reflect some cohesiveness and a willingness to go toe-to-toe with them as a group,” said Steel Head Coach Brendan Burke. “I told them that we could still get something from the match.”

The Rangers weren’t going to let the Steel get up off of the mat easily, though, and added another goal from Jerome Ngom-Mbekeli in the 57th minute. Down 3-1, defender Ben Ofeimu made his 6’4” frame available on the attack and was rewarded for it in the 73rd minute with a goal off a corner kick from midfielder James Chambers. The deficit was fully wiped away just five minutes later when Swope Park’s Mark Segbers deflected a cross in his box that ricocheted into his own net. Now level at 3-3, it was anyone’s game. The Steel continued to put the pressure on and push for that final goal. Their determination paid off in the third minute of second-half stoppage time, when Philadelphia Union striker Sergio Santos pounced on a rebound in the Rangers’ box and buried it past the keeper. 4-3, the final score line. The comeback was complete.

“Great resiliency,” stated Burke when asked what made the difference for his squad. “I think we regressed at one point when the game got a little chippy. Outside of that, I was just so proud of the energy and the fight. There were guys with no legs left at the end of the game still pushing to make themselves part of the attack. If we have that sort of commitment, we will dig out ugly games because that turned into a very ugly game.”

The late-comeback win held a large significance for Steel FC. The club earned its second win on the year through five matches and picked up points in its second straight match. The match was also the first in which the Steel came back from a deficit of more than one goal to get a result. For a very young team, this was something special.

“The lesson that we have to take is that we can be very good when we are at our best and that we will be hard for anyone to beat,” noted Burke. “Our staff has such high hopes for the potential and individual talent in this group to see us be poor at the dirty work. We recognize that it is not easy work to do, but vital to how we want to play as an organization.”

The Steel staff wasn’t the only one that saw a lesson to be learned from how the club finished out the match. Team captain James Chambers was asked after the match if he saw anything special from his teammates when they were down against Swope Park. “Character. There’s nothing else to say other than character,” said Chambers. “You can’t give someone character, you can’t get it. You have to build it and that’s hopefully what we have now this year and going forward.”

James Chambers and Bethlehem Steel FC host undefeated Charleston Battery on Saturday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. ET at Talen Energy Stadium. Tickets to the match are available here, with the match set to be broadcast on ESPN+


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