Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC | March 30, 2019 – Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
Bethlehem Steel FC
Head Coach Brendan Burke
Opening statement . . .
I am really proud of the fight the team showed. We can't comment on the referees, I can’t answer for them, so I won’t. But we will stick to what matters and that's our group and the concentration level and the energy level in our group. We were fighting many different circumstances outside of Pittsburg [Riverhounds SC] tonight. I thought we were just excellent. I am so proud of the energy level and the commitment to play forward early. We created really clear cut chances toward the end of the second half. Those are going to be goals as the season wears on. You just walk away so happy with the way the team played tonight. It's been a frustrating home stand, but like I said to the boys in there, if they perform like that we’ll be one of the first really young teams to ever impact the league. We’re going to have to maintain that as the standard. We set the bar for ourselves and now we have to live above it.
On his team's response after giving up an early goal . . .
We came back with two goals before halftime. It could have been three. Early in the second half there could have been a penalty. That easily could have been four to six goals on a different night. Just so happy with the energy of two 18-year-old forwards and they dominated the field tonight. They caused all sorts of havoc, they dropped underneath and found it at their feet. They played behind the last line. At one point I look to the bench and I said ‘Is there a guy out there that doesn't still deserve to be on the field?’ The entire staff said no way, let them finish the game.
On the performance of his forwards . . .
I said to them, if they play that way they will be an absolute nightmare for other teams to deal with. That’s with all due respect to the other teams in the league. We have some really tremendous franchises in the league now. You're seeing huge crowds in Indy [Eleven] and there are some really tough environments. You have Nashville [SC] moving into the MLS, so these guys are getting tested at a really high level now really early on in their careers. The way those two played tonight, that energy, that commitment to get behind the ball and be that first line of defense as well. You just walk away proud with the way they have trained to put themselves in this position in their application to the game tonight.
On his team keeping the energy level high . . .
I think you have to recognize it right when you walk off the field. To recognize it with the group and make sure they understand that we set a tone for ourselves and now we have a marker that we have to live above and never below. That mental recognition of, ok that's what it feels like. Because that's an excellent Pittsburg team that we just played against. I think they will be one of the top four teams by the end of the year, certainly in the top six, without a doubt. So I am really happy with the way we performed.
On his team’s result tonight . . .
We should do better starting out the game. We were pushing it, but it's part of the game. It's all that we should have done well and done better.
On his goal tonight . . .
It was a great feeling, my first goal of the season. I just have to get myself going, have the team get better, score more goals and do better.
On his relationship with Michee Ngalina up top . . .
We were talking a lot during the week and during practice. We were talking a lot with the coaches trying to get things going. Last game things weren't going well between Michee [Ngalina] and me so we had a talk. We have to get ourselves going in the game and make things better. Hopefully we keep it like that during the season and score more goals to help the team win.
Midfielder Zach Zandi
On the more attacking energy tonight . . .
The last two games before this one we didn't have any goals, so offense was a big priority. I think we did a good job today. We created a lot of opportunities. Faris and Michee [Ngalina] both had great goals, especially Michee. That was a fantastic strike. So offense was definitely a big key for us going into it, but also defensively we were looking to be solid and prevent them from doing anything they had going forward.
On his first assist . . .
Yeah, Michee had the ball originally then I went in to run in behind to get the ball, then kind of checked back a little bit. He played me the ball, I laid it off to him and he did the rest. He had a great strike, so all the credit goes to him for that one.
On the connection of the midfield . . .
It felt a lot better. This was the first time we were really all together, all cohesive and all on the same page. I think the last game was the first time that Michee and Faris were together with me and [Anthony] Fontana. So just building that chemistry, all that stuff is starting to come. You're starting to see everyone’s tendencies and being able to play better from that is really what we’re getting towards. There is still a lot to improve on. We didn't come away with the result that we wanted, so there is still a lot of improvement looking forward.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Head Coach Bob Lilley
On his changes at halftime . . .
Well, for us a lot of it was trying to get connections with passes. I mean we’re playing a lot of longer balls, the game opens up and Steel [FC] has a ton of pace. I think for us, just connecting a few more passes, just traveling as a team a little bit more was always going to be important because the first half they picked up it seemed the majority of the second balls. I think once we tighten up a little bit, we’re able to win some second balls and connect some passes, we were able to get a little bit more of a rhythm and I thought we played really well to get that game back level. Once we got it level, I wanted us to keep playing and then we reverted back to one ball over the top and now the game just became a track meet, I mean both teams were clearly trying to win that game.
On what his team can learn from this match moving towards Louisville City FC . . .
We have to defend better as a team. We’ve been giving up tons of chances the last two weeks, we created tons, but you are not going to survive and win consistently being that open defensively. Some weeks you may outscore someone, but you are going to lose a lot of games if you cannot defend as a team. It’s disappointing. Bethlehem Steel [FC] deserves a lot of credit for their quality of attacking movements. I thought they played well. Obviously, it was physical, there could have been more cards, more penalties, it wasn’t an easy game to coach, watch or play probably. Well it was probably fun to watch. I think both myself and Brendan [Burke] would like a little bit more composure. There were times both teams had good spells where both teams were probably guilty giving the ball away.
On if any specific player stood out to him based on their performance . . .
Listen, I think for us it wasn’t a real focus game in terms of sticking with the game plan. I don’t think we had a lot of great performances, I think we showed some grit. Guys were working hard but the quality across the board for me wasn’t there. I do think we got better as the game went on. It’s hard to say. I liked what [Anthony] Velarde did when he came on to the field. He’s got a lot of quality and he was able to get on the ball and find a couple of really good passes. We have to look at our backline, what we’re doing in the midfield. Offensively I think there were more quality chances if we just could have strung a few more passes together instead of lumping every ball in behind or in the air into the box. It’s one thing to put a ball in the air on restarts but we didn’t play it well enough in transition moments through the midfield. [The] forwards lacked a bit of patience sometimes to spin out and keep us in possession. I can look through my whole roster and safely say I don’t think there were any standouts today for us. I do acknowledge that they battled hard; it’s not easy to come behind, on the road. We had three straight road games, we got a couple draws in it, but I think once we slow down a bit and take care of the ball we’ll start winning some of these games and start defending better. That’s going to be key for us.
Defender Joe Greenspan
On his individual performance tonight . . .
It wasn’t good enough from me, it wasn’t good enough from the group and yeah we are happy to get a point on the road, but again as Kevin [Kerr] said, we need to be tighter in the back, we need to be tighter up front, in the midfield and all around we need to improve those issues. We’re addressing them, we’re trying to get better, but trying isn’t a good enough thing to do. We’re going to keep working on it, we’re going to take our lumps, we’re glad to get a point, but we’re disappointed we didn’t take all three.
Midfielder Kevin Kerr
On his team’s performance tonight . . .
We can’t be happy with that performance; it was a bit of a coin flip with big chances both ends and ended a tie. Where we had so much success last year was being locked down in the back and a little bit more clinical up top so to get where we were last year we know we’ve got a lot of work to do.