How do you analyze a scoreless draw? Let me count the ways. The most obvious route is to highlight that the defense has gotten a clean sheet, which is fair. It could also be used to extend an unbeaten streak, such as the three match streak the City Islanders currently enjoy. But the fact of the matter is that, across all competitions, Harrisburg has ended three of their last four matches with a nil-nil draw. That’s cause for concern.
Harrisburg had their best chances early, and they controlled the ball throughout most of the first half. One early scoring opportunity saw Cardel Benbow running hard to put the ball in the back of the net, only for him to crash into the post instead. He was down for some time to recover, and this may have contributed to him needing to be subbed off in the 40th minute while favoring his hamstring.
Aaron Wheeler was also making his presence felt up top by winning headers and demonstrating some strong ball control. His best opportunity came in the 35th minute when he outmaneuvered Pittsburgh defender Joe Greenspan for a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper, only to have Jamal Jack slide in at the last second to break it up. Wheeler was also subject to wear and tear courtesy of some hard tackles from the Riverhounds defense, and he was subbed off for Pedro Ribeiro at halftime.
Both teams came back from the half still looking for something to provide a spark to their offense. Harrisburg came close to breaking the deadlock off of a corner in the 63rd minute, but Pittsburgh goalkeeper Trey Mitchell was able to collect the bouncing shot at the last second. Their next best chance came in the 79th minute, when Rasheed Olabiyi unleashed another rocket shot much like his USL Goal of the Week nominee against Charleston. Mitchell was able to push the shot up over the bar and the City Islanders were unable to capitalize on the ensuing corner.
Pittsburgh seized the initiative in the last ten minutes as they pushed for the go-ahead goal. Chevy Walsh had a dangerous chance shortly after he was subbed on in the 85th minute, but his shot was off target. Ben Fitzpatrick then worked his way forward in the 89th minute, but his low shot was sent right into the arms of Harrisburg’s Sean Lewis.
Pittsburgh had one last white knuckle moment in the 90th minute when Corey Hertzog broke free to collect a long pass from deep in Pittsburgh’s territory. He was one-on-one with Lewis, but it appeared that the pressure got to him and he hoofed the ball high and very wide. It’s probably for the best that he didn’t score, as replays showed that he might have been offside.
Neither team was able to find a winner during the two minutes of added time, and both sides had to settle for the scoreless draw.
Harrisburg should be proud of their clean sheet, especially since goalkeeper Sean Lewis was making his first ever start for the team. However, the City Islanders’ much improved defense will all be for naught if the offense can’t start generating some production. If Harrisburg wants to get back up the table, then they need to find a way out of this goal scoring funk.
Harrisburg’s next match is this Sunday at 5:00 PM against the Bethlehem Steel. Pittsburgh will be back in action on June 3rd when they play at home against Orlando City B.
- Head referee Charles Murphy took a completely different approach compared to the last match between these two teams. Instead of a steady stream of cards, it seemed like nothing would be enough to earn a card during the match. There were only two yellows shown in total, and there were several times where players noticeably hesitated while waiting for an apparent foul, only to realize that no call was coming.
- The draw means that the winner for the Keystone Derby Cup will not be decided until the final match of the season. Pittsburgh would take home the cup with a win or a draw. Harrisburg would need a win while also scoring more than one goal in order to retain the cup.
- Several Pittsburgh players received a warm reception on City Island. Defender Connor Maloney, who went to high school in Harrisburg, was cheered when he entered the match in the 70th minute. Former City Islander Keasel Broome was also welcomed, although he was not used as a sub during the match. However, Pittsburgh’s Romeo Parkes was not so lucky. He was heartily booed whenever he touched the ball during the match.
- Pittsburgh defender Joseph Greenspan played well Wednesday night. However, it was his last match with the Riverhounds due to the end of his loan. He will be returning to Minnesota United FC and Pittsburgh will have a very tall hole to fill in their back line.
Thank you to everyone at the @PghRiverhounds for a positive and successful loan spell, it was truly a pleasure and an honor.— Joseph Greenspan (@joe_greenspan) May 25, 2017