Playing against one of the club’s biggest rivals, Bethlehem Steel FC found its offensive punch, knocking off Harrisburg City Islanders, 3-1.
Team captain James Chambers produced the spark, scoring his first goal of the season while also becoming the club’s all-time leader in starts (30) and minutes (2,674). Seku Conneh followed up the captain’s goal with his own bit of living history, notching his fifth goal in the second half to double Steel FC’s lead. Conneh’s goal tied the club’s single-season scoring mark and pushed his all-time club record to seven. After Harrisburg City Islanders answered with an 80th-minute goal, substitute Josh Heard drew a penalty kick that was converted by Cory Burke to seal Steel FC’s first victory against Harrisburg.
“It’s a monkey off our back since it’s the first time we’ve beaten Harrisburg,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “We had drawn them before but it’s an important result for us. We had to dig down a little bit, playing Thursday morning so it was a quick turnaround and a lot of the same guys played. I’m really proud of the energy and the fight of the guys, we created six real goal-scoring opportunities and I’m happy that we bagged three of them and hope that this can lead to more multiple goals going forward.”
Playing on three day’s rest, Steel FC came onto the field strongly in the opening 15 minutes, maintaining the majority of the possession. After a few missed scoring chances and two key saves from goalkeeper Jake McGuire, Steel FC took the lead on Chambers’ 39th-minute goal. After a strong offensive build up, Philadelphia Union defender Aaron Jones sent a long ball into the 18-yard-box that Chambers headed toward goal. The ball was blocked but the 30-year-old Dublin, Ireland, native collected the clearance in front of goal and sent it past Harrisburg goalkeeper Sean Lewis. The goal was Chambers’ first since Sep. 18, 2016 and his fourth as a member of Steel FC.
With Harrisburg looking to battle back into the game in the final half, Steel FC took control with an early goal. After a missed City Islanders’ free kick from just outside the box, Jake McGuire’s service went to the midfield to substitute Yosef Samuel. After a quick flick toward the defense that was cleared, Samuel regained the ball and delivered a through pass toward Conneh. Catching the ball while in stride, the Liberian forward made a quick touch before going slotting it into the far post to double the Steel FC lead.
Harrisburg battled back after the Conneh goal, snapping a potential shutout by McGuire. Off of a set piece, James Thomas collected the ball and laid it off for Danny DiPrima who shot it through the Steel FC defense and past McGuire with 10 minutes remaining.
With the game on the line, Steel FC delivered the knockout punch in added time. With Harrisburg pushing for a tying goal, Burke found space down the flank and pushed toward the visitors net. With defenders racing to get back, the Jamaican forward fired a pass to substitute Heard inside the box but was fouled from behind. Burke secured the win on the penalty kick conversion, sending the keeper the wrong direction and giving him his second goal of the year.
Bethlehem Steel FC will conclude its three-game homestand with its first match against Ottawa Fury FC on Sunday, June 4. Kickoff from Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University is set for 5 p.m. Tickets for the match can be purchased online here, or by calling the Bethlehem Steel FC ticket office at 844-STEELFC.