A pair of goals from Santi Moar helped Bethlehem Steel to a massive 2-0 victory over Ottawa Fury Wednesday night at Goodman Stadium. Philadelphia Union winger Marcus Epps and homegrown fullback Matt Real were involved in the goals, which helped Steel create a four point gap between themselves and Ottawa in the standings.
Steel have been leaning on youth over the past month as they have surged up the standings into the playoff picture. The win puts Steel both four points from third place in the USL Eastern Conference standings and four points above the playoff red line, meaning they will not fall out of postseason position even if things go poorly in Nashville this weekend.
Bethlehem’s opening goal came from a great combination play between Epps and Union draft pick Aidan Apodaca. Epps and Apodaca exchanged quick passes just inside the attacking half before the Union winger spun a perfectly weighted pass across the pitch and into Santi Moar’s path. The standout winger took it in stride and lifted the opening goal over Maxime Crepau.
Bethlehem Steel head coach Brendan Burke was impressed with Marcus Epps' commitment to delivering a game-changing performance. "We talked to Marcus [Epps] about impacting the game before the game and that was a great, weighted through ball that he plays to Santi [Moar]," Burke enthused.
Moar doubled his tally in the 32nd minute from the penalty spot after combining with Union academy product Brenden Aaronson and Real to create a crossing opportunity. Aaronson placed a short pass in to Moar and he laid it off for Real at the top right corner of the box. Real, who played another disciplined, intelligent match at left back, curled a far post cross onto Drew Skundrich’s head, and the ball rebounded off an Ottawa arm for the easy penalty call.
Alongside Aaronson, Epps, and Real, Olivier Mbaizo, Josh Yaro, and John McCarthy helped round out a defense with a heavy Union element. Mbaizo has emerged as a force up the right, and he was locked in a physical battle with a variety of Fury players throughout the contest. Yaro put in a solid showing next to Matt Mahoney, including one eyebrow-raising play in the second half in which he made an interception, combined with Mbaizo and continued his run into the opponent’s box and nearly finished off a low driven cross, only to lift his shot onto the crossbar.
After picking up an assist against Toronto II last time out, Aaronson was largely quieted by Ottawa’s compact defense. When the match opened up a little bit in the second half, Aaronson began to assert himself, though his best shots were both blocked away.
Steel continue an important week when they travel to Nashville on Saturday for a matchup that could put considerable distance between Bethlehem and the playoff line.