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Harrisburg's Danny DiPrima makes his return from injury

After returning to the pitch for the first time since ACL surgery, the City Islanders FC midfielder took time for an interview with our Sean McPherson.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Harrisburg City Islanders at Philadelphia Union John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

In the 86th minute of the Harrisburg City Islanders FC home match against Orlando City B, midfielder Danny DiPrima relieved Jose Barril as the City Islanders looked to preserve their 2-1 lead over Orlando.

DiPrima slotted into central midfield and he took the place of ejected captain Bobby Warshaw. The City Islanders were able to withstand Orlando’s pressure and earn their second win of the 2016 USL season.

The only thing out of place in DiPrima’s first appearance of the season was the knee brace on his right leg, a testimony to the hard-work and dedication that lead to DiPrima’s return to the field.

DiPrima was born in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania ‒ just 14 miles southwest of Harrisburg’s City Island. He played for Northern High School (York County) before moving to St. John’s University (NY). DiPrima transferred to North Carolina State University where he played for three years in the ACC. He returned to central Pennsylvania and signed with the Harrisburg City Islanders in 2014.

In his first season with the club, DiPrima appeared in 15 matches, scored a goal, and contributed an assist as he helped the City Islanders to 2014 USL Championship Final. "We were really close [to the Championship] in 2014," DiPrima told me. "I still have the picture of Sacramento celebrating the Championship ... It’s a tough one to swallow, but at the same time it’s a major driving force to get back there and take advantage of that opportunity when we get it."

That loss motivated DiPrima in the offseason and he hit the ground running in 2015. He earned more minutes with the team and was playing some of the best soccer of his career. "I felt like I was doing really well, coming into my own," DiPrima reflected. Unfortunately, his season was ended prematurely when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.

The injury was bad, but DiPrima said he was "crushed" by his inability to help the team down the stretch as the looked to return to the Championship Final. Harrisburg narrowly missed out on the 2015 USL Playoffs.

DiPrima started down the road to recovery with the full-support of the front office, the coaching staff, and his teammates. The hardest part of rehabilitation for DiPrima was the "slow and monotonous process to come back" from a season-ending injury. "There were times you’re making big strides to get back," said DiPrima. "And then there were times when you’re doing the same stuff over and over again."

The key for DiPrima was patience and faith in the physical therapists. "My PTs have done a great job of making sure I’m not coming back too soon, but that I’m back and ready to go when the team needs me," said DiPrima. Now that he is back to fighting form, the City Islanders may call on DiPrima sooner rather than later.Warshaw is suspended for the Harrisburg City Islanders’ away match against the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday. DiPrima’s preferred position is as a center midfielder and he is a potential replacement for Warshaw this weekend.

On the field, DiPrima tries to channel Italy’s Gennaro Gatusso and Manchester United legend Paul Scholes. "I would say I’m more of the Gattuso type, but I always watch Paul Scholes’ videos and try to implement what he did in his game," said DiPrima. "If I can put even a tenth of what he was able to do into my game that would be something special."

Above all, DiPrima is a team player. Head coach Bill Becher has utilized DiPrima in a number of different positions in his two years with Harrisburg. He takes pride in his ability to help the team in different ways. "I’m just happy to be on the field anywhere I can be on the field," DiPrima said. "If the coaching staff and the team need me to do a job, then I’m there to do it. That’s my role."