Match: Charlotte Independence vs Harrisburg City Islanders
Date: Saturday, June 17th
Time: 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Central, 4:00 p.m. Pacific, 11:00 p.m. UTC
Venue: Sportsplex at Matthews (Matthews, NC)
Refs: REF: DUSTIN THORNE AR1: Ryan Graves AR2: Hicham El Bariqi 4TH: Chris Zuerner
How Charlotte will look: Charlotte’s high points this season were their impressive back-to-back wins over New York Red Bulls II and Orlando City B by a combined score of 8-2. Things have slowed down a bit since then however, as they’ve dropped a tough match against Louisville and had to settle for a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati last Saturday. They’ll have a tricky time returning to their high scoring ways, as they will be missing Enzo Martinez for this match thanks to the red card he picked up at the end of the match against Cincy.
City Islanders fans should be happy to get a chance to see long time Islander Yann Ekra. He’s playing his second season with Charlotte after spending a total of four years in Harrisburg.
How Harrisburg will look: Harrisburg comes off of a tough loss in Philadelphia that knocked them out of the US Open Cup. They were however able to generate some exciting offensive chances during the second half of that match, which had been their weakness so far in 2017. Jonny Mendoza scored the lone goal for the City Islanders, and he made himself a real threat by getting open out on the wing. He will most likely get plenty of chances to attack against the Independence as well, because working the ball wide is part of what allowed Rochester to get a 4-0 win over Charlotte early in the season.
What to expect: The big story of this match will be what’s taking place off the pitch. Charlotte is pulling out all the stops to open up the Sportsplex at Matthews, ranging from fireworks to celebrating the 1981 American Soccer League champions Carolina Lightnin’ at halftime. The announced capacity of the stadium is 2,300 and all signs are pointing to a loud, packed house.
Charlotte was able to to rack up goals during some of their previous matches with a combination of fast breakaways and good ball movement in front of the box. Harrisburg’s defense has shown themselves to be susceptible to this during certain matches this season, but not during others. No Enzo Martinez for the Independence means they’ll be without one of their quickest targets though. This could give Harrisburg’s back line a little more breathing room, allowing them to press forward more and snuff out developing plays faster.
Harrisburg’s offense will be looking to go wide on Saturday night. The City Islanders have struggled to make an impact through the center of the field. They generate the most chances by having their left and right backs push forward into the opposing half before working the ball out towards players like Jaime Thomas or Jonny Mendoza who can either dribble into the box or cross in to a big target like Aaron Wheeler, Pedro Ribeiro, or maybe even Mike Olla. These are the dots that Harrisburg with be trying to connect against Charlotte.
PREDICTION: Charlotte will be playing in front of a raucous home crowd, so does Harrisburg have what it takes to play spoiler? This match is going to be heavily influenced by atmosphere and momentum, so my prediction is that whichever team scores first will ultimately get a win.