Multiple members of the Philadelphia Union were on hand Wednesday night to watch Open Cup darlings (and Union PDL affiliate) Reading United AC take on the Harrisburg City Islanders. Union players Andre Blake, Josh Yaro, Fabian Herbers, and Adam Najem were there signing autographs, and Earnie Stewart was spotted hanging around the merch table.
Going into Wednesday’s Open Cup match, it almost felt like the amateur side were the favorites over Harrisburg. They were still flying high thanks to their “cupset” victory over the New York Cosmos, and if they could do the same against Harrisburg then they would get a chance to travel to Chester for a match against the Union. On the other side of the ball, the City Islanders had required penalty kicks to beat the Ocean City Nor’Easters and they were traveling to Reading after a tough 3-1 loss to rivals Bethlehem Steel on Sunday.
However, once the match got started it became clear that Harrisburg had come to play. After fending off the first few Reading attacks, Harrisburg pushed the ball deep into United territory. Pedro Ribeiro collected the ball near the goal line and passed it back to an open Danny Diprima. Danny’s low shot to the far post was Harrisburg’s first goal of the 2017 Open Cup and put them up 1-0.
Reading was unfazed about going down a goal early and they won a quick corner off of the restart. This corner was easily collected by Harrisburg keeper Sean Lewis, but Reading kept up the attack. However, the pressure became a little too disorganized, and the City Islanders took advantage. In the 15th minute, left back Abass Mohammad was able to collect a ball which he sent to the opposite end of the field to a streaking Jake Bond. Bond was able to head the ball forward and then deliver a powerful shot from the corner of the box off of the first bounce. Reading’s keeper never had a chance, and just that quick it was 2-0 Harrisburg.
Reading refused to be discouraged by these scores and they continued to keep up the attack. But goalkeeper Sean Lewis, making only his third start for the City Islanders, came through in a big way. A sequence in the 21st minute saw him make two big saves while the Harrisburg defenders were able to block a third shot as Lewis was getting back in position. He was also able to deflect a powerful shot from Reading’s Hugo Delhommelle in the 36th minute to preserve his clean sheet. It looked like the ensuing corner kick found its way into the goal, but it had only found the side netting. The whistle blew for the half with the score still 2-0.
Harrisburg was looking to put things away after the half. Their chance came in the 50th minute as Jaime Thomas worked the ball into Reading’s box. Unable to find an opening, he slipped it over to Jake Bond who fired a desperation shot to the right of Ben Beaury, who was diving to the left. Bond’s brace put the City Islanders up 3-0.
Even down three goals, Reading never gave up. They put in two subs in the 63rd minute in an effort to liven up the offense, and they were playing at a furious pace for most of the second half. Hugo Delhommelle’s speed was particularly dangerous, and he sprinted the ball downfield multiple times.
However, Reading’s attack could not shake the Harrisburg defense. The City Islander’s veteran defenders consistently shut down Reading’s chances, while also moving to catch them offside several times in the second half. The final minutes burned away without Reading ever managing to solve the riddle of how to beat the City Islanders defense.
Harrisburg's 4th round match comes against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday June 14th at 7:30pm. This will be their second consecutive year facing the Union in the Open Cup.
- Reading was missing midfielder Mo Adams, who had to sit out the match due to a red card received against the New York Cosmos. It wasn’t all bad, though. Adams got a chance to scrimmage against the Philadelphia Union Wednesday morning instead.
- Harrisburg’s offense opened up in an impressive way after being shut down in their previous Open Cup match. This was doubly impressive, as multiple starters were held out to rest some nagging injuries and several fresh faces were on the field to replace them. Hopefully the City Islanders will be able to keep their offensive mojo going when they return to USL play against the Ottawa Fury on June 10th.