Bethlehem Steel FC pushed its unbeaten streak to five consecutive matches with a gritty performance on the road to tie the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 1-1.
Playing the Rowdies for the second time in just four days, the two clubs continued their tight affair with another draw to cap off the regular season series. Steel FC made the most of its lone shot on goal as Seku Conneh tied the club’s single-season scoring mark midway through the second half on an assist from James Chambers. The Rowdies fought back and answered late in the match as substitute Sebastian Guenzatti tallied the equalizer.
In the draw, Philadelphia Union Academy midfielders Brenden Aaronson and Michael Pellegrino earned their first starts in the United Soccer League, with each 16-year-old playing the full 90 minutes.
Facing a squad that entered with a 10-1-3 record at Al Lang Stadium, Bethlehem Steel FC was unphased by the task. Steel FC created the match’s first scoring chance of the night on a quick combination play from Conneh, Aaronson and Yosef Samuel. After collecting it near midfield, Aaronson linked up with Conneh on a give-and-go before firing a through ball to Samuel. Racing into the box, the 20-year-old forward with the defense chasing fired toward the near post but was unsuccessful.
Steel FC continued to disrupt the Rowdies offense for much of the match, holding the club to only one shot on target in the opening half. After a scoreless opening half focused on defense, Bethlehem jumped at the opportunity for a quick counter-attack midway through the final half. After left-back Matt Real wrestled it away from Tampa Bay’s Alex Morrell, Chambers combined with Aaronson to spring an attack toward the Rowdies goal. After a pair of touches, Chambers pushed the pace toward Conneh, where the 21-year-old fired it inside the far post for the lead.
Much like Wednesday’s contest in the Lehigh Valley, the lead would be short-lived as Tampa Bay scored with 10 minutes remaining. After Steel FC defended a free kick from outside the 18-yard-box, Rowdies defender Darnell King collected the cleared ball and fired a cross back into the Steel FC box. Guenzatti timed his run to beat the backline and tapped in the tying goal.
Bethlehem Steel FC will look to extend is unbeaten streak and cement its place in the playoffs next month with an important, final road trip of the regular season. Steel FC will begin the trip by heading north of the border for a third and final showdown against Toronto FC II on Friday, October 6. Kick-off from the Ontario Soccer Centre is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.