Match: Harrisburg City Islanders vs Louisville City FC
Date: Saturday, June 24th
Time: 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Central, 4:00 p.m. Pacific, 11:00 p.m. UTC
Venue: FNB Field (Harrisburg, PA)
Refs: REF: GUSTAVO SOLORIO AR1: Ben Pilgrim AR2: Joshua Encarnacion 4TH: Daniel Pannullo Jr
How Louisville will look: Dominant.
Louisville has only has one loss over twelve matches so far this season, and they currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with games in hand. Their offensive abilities have been solid, but their defense could be the best in the East. They’ve only allowed nine goals so far this season, and four of those were in the wild 4-4 draw they had with the Charleston Battery.
Louisville Head Coach James O’Conner has also gone out of his way in interviews this week to say that he’s making sure that the team doesn’t overlook Harrisburg’s abilities just because they’re at the bottom of the table. So a “trap game” for Louisville doesn’t seem likely.
How Harrisburg will look: Adrift.
Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss against the Bethlehem Steel FC extended Harrisburg’s winless streak to ten matches and their losing streak to four. While their offense had flashed some exciting potential during their Open Cup matches, it has failed to carry over to the USL. They have failed to tally a goal over their last three matches.
Things won’t be looking good on the defensive side either as Harrisburg will be playing without center back Lee Nishanian due to a late red card against the Bethlehem Steel. Tiago Calvano should be available to step in, but the Harrisburg defense will surely be missing Nishanian’s speed and physicality.
What to expect: Pain.
Louisville’s return to City Island brings back bad memories of last year’s match where the City Islanders fought back from two goals down only to give up a winning goal less than two minutes after their equalizer. That was their home opener last season, and it certainly didn’t bode well.
The last thing Harrisburg’s struggling offense needs is to go up against a defense as stingy as Louisville’s. Speedy threats like Jonny Mendoza and Cardel Benbow have been seeing limited minutes due to injury, and the City Islanders attack can’t seem to find any space without big target Aaron Wheeler. Other players have tried to fill these roles, but with only limited success.
It’s also telling that Louisville’s focus during training this week has been trying to avoid “overconfidence.” Obviously on paper this is a game they should win based on both their league position and their current skill set. The most troubling piece of information is that Louisville currently has five players with multiple goals so far this season. It will be difficult for Harrisburg to keep a clean sheet with that many attacking threats, and this season has shown that one goal is too often enough to beat them.
PREDICTION: As good as Louisville has been playing, Harrisburg would probably be happy just to get a point from them on Saturday. However, that doesn’t seem like the likely outcome, and I’m going to predict a 2-0 win for Louisville.