A rather long, hot and humid evening that was highlighted by plenty of whistles from the match referee, a pair of so-called “hydration breaks” on either side of halftime and parade of substitutes that would make any proper meaningless international friendly very proud finally ended with a dramatic equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time that preserved the home side’s lengthy unbeaten streak as the host Rochester Rhinos battled visiting Bethlehem Steel FC to an exhausting 2-2 standoff in United Soccer League action on Saturday.
The Rochester Rhinos, who stretched their existing home unbeaten record to twenty-four consecutive matches (twenty wins, four ties) including three playoff victories last season, struck first after taking advantage of a dangerous set piece situation just outside the penalty area in only the 13th minute of the match. Jordan Becker, the inexperienced 24-year-old left back from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County who is in his first season as a professional in the third tier USL, played a curling ball to the back post that Joe Farrell, the enterprising 22-year-old rookie centerback from La Salle University, ran onto and volleyed out of the air with aplomb on the edge of the six-yard box. Left with virtually no chance at all in between the Bethlehem Steel FC sticks was season debutant Samir Badr.
Bethlehem Steel FC, who were playing for the very first USL match this season without any Major League Soccer players on loan from the Philadelphia Union in its starting line-up, rallied to level the score a little more than ten minutes later. Gabe Gissie, the 19-year-old Liberian winger who troubled the Rhinos defense with his speed and skill before fading away in the second half, won his team a penalty after a strong run down the right flank. BSFC captain Ryan Richter, the 26-year-old veteran right back from La Salle University who only recently ended a personal streak of having made 46 consecutive appearances as a professional without scoring a goal, calmly stepped up to the spot and easily converted to notch his second tally of this 2016 USL campaign.
The Rochester Rhinos put the ball in the back of the net for a second time in the first half in the 38th minute of the sparsely-attended match but Steevan Humberto Fortes dos Santos, the 26-year-old striker from Cape Verde who previously played professionally in Norway as well as Angola, was ruled to have been in an offsides position.
Shortly before the hour, visiting Bethlehem Steel FC grabbed its first lead of the game after the Rochester Rhinos defense failed to clear a corner kick effectively. BSFC left back Matthew Real, the 16-year-old Philadelphia Union Academy player who was a very late addition to the team roster on display at the official website of the United Soccer League, made a fine play to first settle the ball and then lose his defender with the ole’ spin-o-rama move before passing off to midfielder Bolu Akinyode, who might have a had a shot but instead played the ball out wide to the right wing. A fine cross from veteran Irish midfelder James Chambers enabled BSFC centerback Michael Daly, the 28-year-old veteran who scored six goals in 59 USL games for Sacramento Republic FC the past two seasons combined, to net his first goal of this particular campaign with a confident header from about six yards away.
So, exactly why was Real removed from Bethlehem Steel FC’s Master Roster on display at the official website of the United Soccer League earlier in the week only to then be re-added later on the actual match day, itself? And how it is possible that Raheem Taylor-Parkes, the Philadelphia Union Academy midfield player who was removed from the Master Roster at the official USL website earlier in the week and still has not been re-added as of Sunday, May 29th (11:30 AM EST), was eligible to be in uniform and sitting on BSFC’s bench yesterday? These are valid questions and weak responses along the lines of, “Well, it’s the team’s first year” simply will not be reviewed favorably by people who constantly waste their valuable time foolishly trying to accurately follow this kindergarten soccer league which features head coaches who actually wear baseball hats!
Moving right along, substitute striker Corey Burke might have just as easily put the entire issue to bed for Bethlehem Steel FC in the 76th minute of the match but the 24-year-old attacker on loan for the season from Jamaican side Rivoli United FC blasted a fine centering pass midfielder Derrick Jones well over the bar from about eight yards out or so.
Bethlehem Steel FC’s youthful centerback Auston Trusty, the 17-year-old Philadelphia Union Academy player who was making his sixth start of this USL season thus far, appeared to have sealed the deal for the visitors when he cleared a ball off the goal line after Rochester Rhinos substitute striker Asani Samuels had successfully dribbled around the BSFC netminder Badr early into the extended injury time session.
But halting the Rochester Rhinos’ home unbeaten march was simply not meant to be for Bethlehem Steel FC. The inexperienced Badr probably never should have come so far off his line to try and deal with that high ball played to the edge of his eighteen-yard penalty box area but, if he does, then the 23-year-old either has to catch the ball cleanly or punch it away towards the sidelines. Whatever happens, Badr simply just can NOT steer the ball into the middle of the park or there will be terrible consequences — as the never-say-die Rhinos, after a little bit of head tennis as well as a second goal from the centerback Farrell, were clearly able to demonstrate to the delight of their supporters.
Rochester Rhinos 2:2 Bethlehem Steel FC
May 28, 2016
Rochester Rhinos Stadium – Rochester, New York
Attendance – not reported
Rochester Rhinos : Grinwis – Becker (Kamdem 62), Totsch (A. Samuels 62), Farrell, Apostolopoulos – Garzi, James (Guilavogui 72) – Ogarte (D. Samuel 72), Forbes, Tergou (Volesky 59) – Dos Santos
Bethlehem Steel FC : Badr – Real (Bibbs 83), Daly, Trusty, Richter – Akinyode, Jones – Gissie (Fred 89), Chambers, Luchini (Heard 77) – Conneh (Burke 73)
unused subs : Verdi – McKenzie, Taylor-Parkes
goals – Farrell 13, Richter (pen) 24, Daly 58, Farrell 95
Rochester Rhinos vs Bethlehem Steel FC
Attempts At Goal chart
9th min …… BSFC – Chambers shot wide
13th min …. ROCH – Farrell GOAL
17th min …. ROCH – Totsch shot saved
19th min …. BSFC – Richter shot saved
24th min … BSFC – Richter GOAL
58th min … BSFC – Daly GOAL
76th min … BSFC – Burke shot over
81st min …. ROCH – Forbes shot blocked by defender
92nd min … ROCH – Samuels shot cleared off line by defender
93rd min …. BSFC – Heard shot wide
95th min …. ROCH – Farrell GOAL