Saturday’s match wasn’t supposed to go well for the City Islanders. Pretty much everyone - including yours truly - gave them no chance at winning against a hot Louisville City FC team. All signs were pointing towards another Harrisburg loss. They were playing their fifth match in fifteen days, and they’d lost the first four by a combined score of 7-1. They hadn’t gotten a USL win since April 15th, and they hadn’t so much as scored a goal in USL play since May 28th. So how can a team like that get a win over one-loss Louisville? We found out Saturday night.
Harrisburg started things off on the wrong foot when Jaime Thomas managed to draw a penalty kick very early in Saturday’s match. For most teams, this would be a piece of good fortune. But Harrisburg hasn’t been great about handling good fortune this season, and Pedro Ribeiro’s shot was saved by a diving Greg Ranjitsingh. The City Islander’s opportunity to go up a goal early had evaporated as quickly as it had developed.
For all of their offensive struggles, Harrisburg’s defense has been top notch in 2017. Take the sequence during the 14th minute as an example. Louisville’s Brian Ownby worked his way up the left side and made a pass in front of the net where he had two attackers. But as soon as he made the pass, Travis Brent and Abass Mohamed clamped down on their men and the resulting weak shot was collected by goalkeeper Brandon Miller. This type of solid play helped the City Islanders keep Louisville out of the net, and the score remained 0-0 at the half.
Energized by a solid forty-five minutes of soccer, the City Islanders were able to come up with a few more good chances right as they came back for the second half. Ribeiro connected on a powerful header in the 46th minute only to see it ricochet off of the crossbar. Jaime Thomas had a misplayed rebound coming his way in the 51st minute, but he had been knocked to the ground and he couldn’t quite get a foot to it.
The breakthrough finally came in the 53rd minute, and it was a measure of redemption for Ribeiro. Left back Abass Mohammad sent a long pass to Pedro that was broken up by the Louisville defense. However, Rasheed Olabiyi was able to head the ball back down to Pedro’s feet. The defenders conceded way too much space at the top of the box, and Pedro made them pay with a low, left-footed shot that Ranjitsingh could not reach.
Ribeiro didn’t do much to celebrate as he fell to his knees shortly after the ball made its way into the net. His first goal during his second stint with Harrisburg was a long time coming, and it appeared to help relieve half a season’s worth of frustration.
Louisville didn’t take going down a goal lightly, and they made adjustments to try and equalize. But they were out of substitutions by the 66th minute, and they had used up all of their subs before the City Islanders had even used their first. This allowed Harrisburg to later bring in Danny DiPrima and Cardel Benbow to provide speed against a tiring Louisville defense.
As the seconds ticked away, Louisville’s attack became more dangerous. Luke Spencer had an open look in the 71st minute that he sent high and wide. Ownby had a similar breakaway in the 90th minute, but Brandon Miller came off of his line and drove the ball away at the very last second. Louisville had one last crack at an equalizer early in stoppage time, but another Miller deflection shut the play down and the City Islanders were able to run down the clock on their first USL win in quite a while.
Harrisburg’s victory was enough to pull them out of the bottom of the table, but the bigger boost is psychological. Their ten match winless streak is now behind them, and this result will provide encouragement going forward. Harrisburg has a long way to go before they are back in playoff contention, but the message moving forward is clear. No team in the USL should come to City Island expecting an easy win. They’ll have to earn it.
- Pedro’s redemption score was the biggest moment of the match, but the most important overall performance for Harrisburg came from Brandon Miller. One miscue from him and the 1-0 upset would have easily slipped away. But Miller hung tough for ninety minutes and earned his biggest clean sheet of the season.
- Louisville’s Luke Spencer was making an appearance as a sub after not playing for the team since the end of May. Louisville’s social media accounts had made mention that the starting XI for Saturday’s match was the same as it had been for their last three. But based Spencer’s improved health, and the less than desirable result, expect that to change before their next match against Ottawa.
- Penalty kicks may actually be a point of weakness for the City Islanders. Both Pedro Ribeiro and Aaron Wheeler have seen kicks saved this season. The only Islander to successfully convert a PK so far in 2017 is center back Tiago Calvano.