by Ray Stellhorn
This Saturday afternoon, the Harrisburg City Islanders will host the Charlotte Eagles in the quarterfinals of the 2013 USL PRO Playoffs. The match is scheduled to start at two o'clock in the afternoon at Skyline Sports Complex on City Island.
Have We Met?
The players and fans of the City Islanders are hungry for playoff success after an early exit last year in the first round from eventual champion Charleston Battery. It has been two years since the last home playoff game in Harrisburg, two years since the last time the team reached the championship match, and six years since the club has won their last trophy. Despite being two very successful clubs, the last time the Charlotte Eagles faced the Harrisburg City Islanders in the playoffs was back in 2005. The first leg was at Skyline Sports Complex, Harrisburg was without two of their best players due to World University games for England and Mo Odour went down with an injury in the fifth minute making things even more difficult for the home side to earn victory. The boys in blue were able to earn victory late when a long thrown in found the foot of Derik Potteiger who scored on a half volley in the eighty-eighth minute to earn the City Islanders their first ever playoff victory. Charlotte won the home tie with the boys in blue to advance on and win the USL-2 Championship that season.
This year, Harrisburg City Islanders and Charlotte Eagles spilt their regular season series with each grabbing three points on the road. In the first contest back in early June at Queen's University, Harrisburg dominated in a four to nil victory. Two weeks ago, the Isle Guys fell to the side wearing orange by a score of 2-1 on a soggy night at Skyline Sports Complex. Charlotte's top two scorers on the season got both goals in their last visit to City Island. Jorge Herrera and Christian Ramirez have the most goals by far on the team with 10 and eight goals, respectively. Eric Reed, the Eagles' keeper, has been solid all year posting a total of eight shutouts.
Charlotte has been one of the best team's on the road in USL PRO this season besides Richmond and the only club to score more goals away than at home. Also, as mentioned before in their last regular season meeting, the Eagles took three points from the City Islanders at the same grounds they will be playing on Saturday. Lastly, Harrisburg is coming off a lack luster performance when they lost three to nil to Dayton Dutch Lions.
With that said, this is not the regular season, this is a new beginning and there is more at stake, Harrisburg know if they lose that it is over. Also, the City Islanders are looking to get a win for fomer players Jason Hotckin and Mo Odur who were injured from a shooting early Sunday morning in West Chester, PA. Odur was injured but nothing major while Hotckin is recovering in the hospital from being shot in the leg multiple times. Both players are close and dear to the City Islanders' players, staff, and supporters. I believe the motivation to win for their injured former teammates and close friends will lift Harrisburg to be on top of their game against Charlotte. I also believe the boys in blue will account for their mistakes in previous fixture against the Eagles meaning they will not be countered easily and be more organized defensively. Therefore, my prediction is the Harrisburg City Islanders will defeat the Charlotte Eagles two goals to one in extratime. It will be a very close matchup but the home side will prevail with the boost of the home crowd and to honor their friends who are recover from their injuries.
For those attending the match at Skyline Sports Complex, fans should watch for special community caring and fundraising campaign on how they can support former City Islander Player # 11 Jason Hotchkin. Lastly, the match is a whiteout so wear white to support your City Islanders in their Quest for the Cup.