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Harrisburg City Islanders drop season opener in Richmond

Allentown native Jason Yeisley's goal in the 23rd minute held up as the winner in the Richmond Kickers' impressive home opener against the visiting Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday.

City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia
City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Harrisburg came in on the wrong side of the scoreline of an exciting season opener in Richmond Saturday that was closer than the 3-1 final would suggest.

Richmond came out clicking on all cylinders in the first half attacking on the wings with two goals inside 25 minutes, including a tap-in by Allentown native Jason Yeisley after Brian Ownby fought Shane Campbell off for a ball outside the 18 and connected with Yudai Imura to his left, who sent a ball far post to Yeisley. Ownby created the opening goal when he got to the end line and somehow got the ball through defender Shawn McLaws' legs to a streaking Michael Callahan.

After a shaky start for a back line featuring Campbell, a rookie out of Lousiville who spent time in the Philadelphia Union Academy and newcomers McLaws and Jamie Thomas (only Shane Johnson, who played for Harrisburg on loan from Richmond last season had suited up for the City Islanders before), Harrisburg were able to shift momentum and generate some offense of their own. Former Philadelphia Union forward Aaron Wheeler saw a couple of chances, including one off a Jose Barril corner, go wanting while Jamaican winger Paul Thomas looked dangerous attacking space on the right flank.

It wasn't until a third Richmond goal though after the break though that City Islanders offense truly woke up. Two minutes into the second half, Imura put the game seemingly out of reach when he intercepted an errant back pass and hit a slow roller that off-his-line goalkeeper Nick Noble could only watch roll into the back of the net.

Harrisburg did finally break through with their first goal of the season four minutes later when Paul Wilson chased down a long ball from McLaws and squared the ball to the top of the box for Barril, a former Real Madrid youth player now in his third year with the club. Kickers goalkeeper Ryan Taylor got a hand on Barril's the shot but couldn't keep it out.

City Islanders nearly made it 3-2 in the 59th minute when Barril's corner was flicked off the crossbar and cleared off the line by Samuel Asante. Substitute Craig Foster had another chance two minutes later when the ball fell to him in the box after some miscommunication in the back but Taylor made a fine save to stop the shot.

Pushing to get back into the game, head coach Bill Becher brought in pacy midfielder Cardel Benbow and Brett Jankouskas but the two-goal lead proved insurmountable.

Harrisburg travel to North Carolina on Saturday to take on Charlotte Indpedence, 1-0 losers in their first week to Louisville City FC. The City Islanders open their home schedule at FNB Field on City Island Friday, April 22.