Even though the City Islanders didn't perform as well as they had hoped in 2017, they still had a lot of players who put in some excellent work on the soccer pitch that deserve a little recognition. So this is just my attempt to single out a few people and players for praise who probably weren't in the discussion for the league-wide awards. That's just what happens when there’s 32 teams in the league.
Disclaimer: All awards were determined by a committee of one and are kinda subjective at best. Any desire for argument or discussion is free to take place in the comments.
Player of the Year: Brandon Miller
Brandon Miller put together a solid year in goal and helped keep the City Islanders in a lot of matches with some excellent saves. He ultimately accumulated 71 saves during the season (good enough for 7th in the Eastern Conference) as well as 7 clean sheets. Harrisburg played their poorest after they got behind a few goals, so Miller's ability to make the big save is what gave the City Islanders hope during more than a few matches this season. He even managed to take home a USL Save of the Week for his beautiful stop against FC Cincinnati.
Runner Up: Ropapa Mensah
Ropapa wound up leading the team in goals scored and he played a huge part in the late-season winning streak. He deserves some recognition, which is why he ended up winning…
Rookie of the Year: Ropapa Mensah
Ropapa managed to put up impressive numbers with his limited amount of playing time. He ultimately scored seven goals in only 15 starts. He also managed to win USL Goal of the Week once for his goal against Richmond and he also made several appearances on the USL Team of the Week. Most impressively, he was nominated for USL Player of the Month in September.
Comeback Player of the Year: Pedro Ribeiro
Pedro Ribeiro was poised to make a big splash in MLS last year playing for Orlando City, but his 2016 campaign was cut short by a back injury that required surgery. He spent most of that season recovering. He ended up missing some time in Harrisburg for injury as well, but when he was on the pitch he was a game-changer. He led the team in assists (tied with Jonny Mendoza) and he scored the winning goals against Louisville City FC and Saint Louis FC. He also managed to win USL Player of the Week after the Toronto FC II match, which is the first time a Harrisburg City Islander won that award in years.
Runner Up: Manolo Sanchez
Manolo made his comeback *during* the season, but I’m still going to count it. After scoring Harrisburg’s first goal of 2017, he got injured during an Open Cup match. This kept him out for most of the season, but when he did get back on the pitch at the end of the season he picked right up where he left off. His quick corner kick in St. Louis helped set up the winning goal and it was one of the feel good moments of the year. And it was Pedro Ribeiro who scored the goal on that corner kick, so that’s a double comeback moment.
Unsung Heroes of the Year: Harrisburg Senators ground crew.
It's not easy converting a baseball field to a soccer pitch, but the Harrisburg Senators ground crew did an amazing job this season. Just look at what they did with the field in September.
That’s the good stuff.
Returning Player of the Year: Paul Wilson
For whatever reason the Harrisburg City Islanders have a lot of turnover from year to year. That's why the 2017 squad only returned nine players from 2016. So I want to give a little credit to the guys that stuck around. Out of that group, I thought Paul Wilson put together the most impressive 2017. His 28 appearances during the season lead the team and he managed to score three goals, which was good enough for second place on the team.
Runner-up: Mo Dabo
Mo Dabo didn’t put up very flashy numbers during 2017, but his impact on the field was significant. When he went out injured late in the season, his skills as a defensive midfielder were sorely missed. Luckily he did get a little recognition from the USL when he made the USL Team of the Week in week 17.
Best at Fouling: Tiago Calvano
Well this was an easy one. Tiago managed to lead the league in yellow cards (tied with Joel Johnson of the Charlotte Independence) thanks to his physical play at center back. But you know what, I’ve got no problem with that. It’s good to see a veteran defender out there showing these young USL guys how to get physical.
Honorable mention: Aaron Wheeler
I still don't know why Aaron Wheeler was such a foul magnet. He managed to accumulate 32 fouls in just 14 appearances. That’s the same number of fouls as Tiago, and he made 26 appearances. To quote Fezzik from The Princes Bride, “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.”
Best at Smiling: Jonny Mendoza
Any time there’s a group photo, all of the guys will have a super serious look on their faces except for one. Jonny Mendoza.
Photo of the year:
Moment of the Year: Late winner against Bethlehem Steel during the home opener
The City Islanders managed to kick off the season at home in style by quickly going up two nothing over the Bethlehem Steel thanks to goals from Aaron Wheeler and Paul Wilson. Unfortunately, they struggled to keep Bethlehem out of the net and allowed them to come back to equalize 2-2. But Cardel Benbow had other plans when he put away the late winner in front of a record crowd at FNB field. It sent the fans home happy, though unfortunately it would be Harrisburg’s only 2017 win over either of their two Pennsylvania rivals.
Honorable Mention: Pedro scores the lone goal to upset Louisville City FC
This one may end up becoming more impressive down the line as Louisville City currently looks like they could win Eastern Conference and possibly the USL Championship. The fact that Harrisburg was able to get a win over Louisville during their dominant run of form this season becomes more and more impressive as time goes on.
Well I think that pretty well covers it. If there’s any players you think deserve a little extra recognition, let us know in the comments.