The Harrisburg City Islanders FC fell to the 2015 USL Champion Rochester Rhinos 2-1 on Saturday night at Sahlen’s Stadium.
Harrisburg’s head coach Bill Becher utilized a new lineup for their third match in eight days. Forward Brett Jankouskas and midfielder Danny DiPrima made their first starts of the season. Full backs Shawn McLaws and James Thomas were moved into the midfield and replaced by defenders Shane Campbell and Shane Johnson, respectively.
Captain Jose Barril was listed next to Jankouskas as a second forward but wandered around the field, probing for offensive opportunities. DiPrima was partnered with Josh Hughes in the center of the midfield.
The lineup showed signs of growing pains as the first half progressed. Harrisburg struggled to maintain any possession for long stretches of the first half. Every City Islander clearance or interception fell to a Rhino, as Rochester continually pressured the Harrisburg defense.
In the 23rd minute Liam Doyle attempted to clear the ball with his head, but it made it only as far as the nearest Rochester player. The ball fell to Rochester’s Christian Volesky who sent Kenardo Forbes one-on-one with the keeper. Forbes easily chipped the onrushing Nick Noble, putting Rochester up 1-0.
The City Islanders managed a few chances as the half progressed, but were unable to challenge Rochester’s goalkeeper. Noble made a few key saves, but the momentum remained with the Rhinos.
After nearly conceded a second from a dangerous cross and header, referee Gary Guttierrez blew the whistle for halftime: Rochester 1, Harrisburg 0.
Harrisburg made three changes at half time, sending on Craig Foster, Paul Wilson, and Cardel Benbow for Jankouskas, Campbell, and DiPrima. Foster and Benbow lined up as forwards with Wilson behind in a central attacking midfield position.
The substitutes immediately made their presence known by the supplying offensive speed that Harrisburg was lacking. The City Islanders got their best chance of the match as Benbow pushed down the left flank, squared to Foster, who then fed an open Hughes. The low shot forced Rochester’s Adam Grinwis to make a save to keep their lead.
In the 61st minute, Rochester defender Tony Walls sent an easy cross into the Harrisburg box. Noble moved to punch the ball away but instead knocked it into the chest of Rochester’s Ryan James. The midfielder kicked the ball into the open net to put the Rhinos up 2-0.
Aaron Wheeler relieved Leverock in the 73rd minute and the City Islanders returned to a traditional 4-4-2 formation. Despite the changes, Rochester continued to dictate the tempo of the match and control possession.
Just when it looked like Harrisburg’s night was done, Wilson fired a powerful shot that was blocked by the Rochester defense in the 86th minute. The deflected ball fell to Foster who took a touch to round the keeper and hit it into the net.
Unfortunately for Harrisburg, their late-game momentum was curtailed two minutes later when Thomas knocked a Rhino out of bounds. The move earned him his second yellow card of the evening and an early trip to the showers.
Harrisburg sent midfielder Matthew Boluc to relieve McLaws in the 89th minute, but it wasn’t enough. The match ended: Rochester 2, Harrisburg 1.
With the loss, Harrisburg fall to 2-4-0 (W-L-T) on the season. The City Islanders return to action on Saturday May 7 when they host FC Cincinnati at FNB Field.