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Bethlehem Steel 0-0 Louisville City

Sometimes 0-0 draws are snooze-fests, and sometimes they are some of the most exciting matches you will ever witness. Last night’s match between Louisville City and Bethlehem Steel was somewhere in the middle.

Despite having seven shots on goal, LCFC were unable to get on the scoreboard, as they saw two shots hit off the frame of the goal and numerous others get saved or go just wide. At the other end, Greg Ranjitsingh–who started in place of the suspended Scott Goodwin–had a terrific performance as he held a clean-sheet, just the second one that LCFC has kept all season long. He came up with two important saves and was helped multiple times by his back line.

The starting lineup saw no real surprises, but it did see the reinstatement of Aodhan Quinn after missing the last match. Early on the action was end to end, with both teams showing intent to attack but unable to convert. Bethlehem had multiple shots blocked and moves broken up by timely interceptions. Quinn was shown an early booking in the 12th minute, as things were beginning to get a bit chippy.

In the 18th minute, Ranjitsingh came up with a massive save, as Bethlehem had a terrific chance to make it 1-0. Fabian Herbers made a long, snaking run from the right into the middle, and then made a perfect through pass to Eric Ayuk. The winger was always going to have a tough angle, but the LCFC keeper did a great job of cutting down the angle and making the save without allowing a rebound. Less than a minute later, Kadeem Dacres fired from distance, and the ball trickled just a foot or so wide of the goal.

A yellow card was shown to Bethlehem defender Brian Richter, as he blocked Kadeem’s cross just outside of the area with his arm. There were arguments for a penalty but the proper call was made. Niall McCabe tried to be cute with the ensuing free kick and hit it low along the ground, but nobody was able to get to it.

One of LCFC’s best chances came in the 27th minute, when Chandler Hoffman forced a turnover and played McCabe in on goal, but he put his shot well high and wide of the goal from about eight yards out. He had a teammate in the middle of the box that he possibly could have laid off to, but did not make the pass.

Then came a spell of play that was as exciting as you can get without a goal. There was almost a chance per minute between the 30th and 35th minute, as both teams nearly scored. First, Kyle Smith whipped in a terrific cross that simply was unable to evade the only defender in the area, as two LCFC players were there to head it in. Then, Sean Reynolds got on the end of a Paolo DelPiccolo corner and headed down towards the bottom corner, but the Steel keeper was just able to get enough on it to keep it out. On the ensuing counter-attack, a Steel player got behind the defense, but Greg did a great job of reading the danger and snatching the ball just before the attacker could get to it in the box.

Two minutes later, Hoffman nearly added to his USL-leading scoring tally, as he drove one in from about 25 yards out. Unfortunately, it never got off the ground and the keeper took it easily. Then, Kadeem whipped a cross in from the left, and found Hoffman in stride, but he headed well wide and did not test the keeper at all. LCFC again threatened just before halftime with two more shots –one from Quinn and another from Hoffman–but the first went off target, and the second was saved as Chandler blasted into the keeper’s hands from near range on a terrific run.

Kadeem would see his match end at halftime, as Mark-Anthony Kay replaced him on the wing. Again LCFC’s pressure would cause problems, and it looked like they finally were on the board in the 52nd minute, as Hoffman buried a shot into the roof of the net on a lobbed pass, but it was ruled offside. It was very close but it appeared he was just unable to get back onside prior to the pass.

A controversial moment took place in the 54th minute, as Then three minutes later, the keeper’s best friend came up with a key save for Steel, as Walter Restrepo went down in the box after a nifty move. The referee was only a few yards away and waved for him to get up, but on replays it appears that he was tripped by an LCFC defender. A penalty was likely the right call, but the boys in gold and white got away with it. Perhaps the ball decided to deliver justice, as just a minute later, Andrew Lubahn nearly broke the deadlock but after beating the keeper, he was unable to beat the post as he smashed it into the woodwork from twelve yards out.

The game began to break down a bit after that, as the rain began to make footing difficult for everyone. Hoffman would make way for Cameron Lancaster in the 68th minute, and five minutes later it would be Quatro coming in for Lubahn. In the 76th minute, LCFC nearly scored again, but the keeper’s best friend came up big, as Kaye headed down into the base of the post on a great ball from Paolo. On the ensuing free kick, the hosts would have a player injured and he would have to be carted off with what looked like possibly a bad shoulder injury.

The match ended as it had gone for the LCFC–with no goals. A few more chances that were stopped, a few more that were blocked by defenders, and a few more that were so close to being finished. It was a frustrating result for the fans and the players, although according to post-match comments released by the club, Coach James O’Connor was happy with the attack. It’s hard to disagree–there were a lot of great chances created by our boys–but the finishing simply was not there, and that is concerning. Someone besides Hoffman will need to step up and score once in a while for this team to make a strong run this season. On the flip side, it was good to see a clean sheet after five straight matches without recording a shutout.

With the result, the point keeps LCFC at the top of the Eastern Conference, but Charlotte and Sugar Free are just behind, both having a match in hand. Rochester continue to look strong and if they win their two matches in hand, would regain the lead over everyone. LCFC now finishes their short road trip with a match at Toronto on Wednesday night, before getting ten days to rest and enjoy the wonderful weekend that is Derby, before hosting those guys six hours down I-64, when they take on St Louis on May 14th.