Bethlehem Steel FC saw its first opportunity to clinch a spot in the USL Playoffs come up short, as the club fell to the defensive-minded Rochester Rhinos, 1-0.
Facing off against a Rhinos squad that had notched 13 shutouts entering the Tuesday night affair, Steel FC was unable to capitalize in limited chances against the defensive squad. Rochester tallied the lone goal of the match in the first half, as Jochen Graf tallied his second game-winning goal against Steel FC this season.
Steel FC continues to control its own destiny in its search for the club’s first USL playoff appearance. The squad can secure one of the three remaining Eastern Conference spots on Thursday night if Orlando City B is unable to defeat I-4 rival Tampa Bay Rowdies. A loss on Saturday night from FC Cincinnati would help Steel FC secure a chance as well.
Rochester opened the scoring in the 38th minute. After a Steel FC offensive build up was halted by the Rhinos backline, the hosts strung together a 20-pass sequence that was capped off by Graf. Collecting a pass at the midfield, Kenardo Forbes lofted a pass that Graf headed past Steel FC’s goalkeeper Jake McGuire.
Steel FC nearly equalized seven minutes later, as Santi Moar beat a pair of defenders and picked out Adam Najem. Positioned just outside the 18-yard-box, Najem fired a difficult shot that Tomas Gomez collected.
The second half saw a pair of chances from Steel FC as they hunted for a tying goal. Cory Burke saw his scoring effort called offside in the 52nd minute while Moar saw a shot from the edge of the box blocked by the Rhinos defense. The final chance of the night came from substitute Seku Conneh in the waning moments of the match, as the Liberian’s cross was unable to connect with Burke and Chris Nanco inside the box.
Bethlehem Steel FC will conclude its regular season in front of its home fans when the team plays host to Saint Louis FC on Sunday, Oct. 15. The two squads will face off for the first time at Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University at 3 p.m.