Half way through the 2017 season, Harrisburg has lived and died by the one goal game. Absorbing the other team’s attacks, being stingy on defense, and capitalizing on big opportunities is what allowed Harrisburg to pick up 1-0 wins over NYRB II and Louisville City FC. But trying to win games like this has burned the City Islanders more often than it has gotten them wins. Unfortunately, they were burned again Saturday night in Rochester.
There weren’t many surprises in the Harrisburg starting XI. Rasheed Olabiyi was able to play after being subbed out for injury last week, so he was back in the midfield. Cardel Benbow did end up starting for Jaime Thomas, who stayed back in Harrisburg due to yellow card accumulation. Former Rhino Jonny Mendoza wasn’t involved for Harrisburg, but Brandon Miller did make the start in net. Rochester made their feelings regarding their former keeper clear.
For Harrisburg, the first half was a tale of two players. Goalkeeper Brandon Miller, who has often outdone himself this season, took everything that the Rhinos could throw at him and he stopped it all. Former Philadelphia Union youth player Darius Madison was the one who was making trouble for Miller, putting at least four quality shots on goal in the first half. Miller used all of the tools at his disposal to deny Madison. He came off his line in the 11th minute to collect a shot right off of Madison’s foot and he hung tight in first half added time to deflect a screamer from Madison up over the crossbar.
The other developing City Islander story from the first half began when Pedro Ribeiro went down with a leg injury away from the ball in the 42nd minute. He was eventually able to limp off of the field, but he was immediately subbed out for Ropapa Mensah. Pedro was finally starting to get into a grove during his second run with Harrisburg, and it will be a huge concern if this turns out that he will miss significant time with this injury. Bill Becher has tended to play it safe when players are injured during a match however, so it’s possible that Pedro was only subbed out as a precaution.
Harrisburg came back out in the second half looking to break the deadlock, but found more of the same instead. The Islanders had to take time to adjust to the first half substitution, and they weren’t stringing many quality chances together. On the Rochester side of the ball, they weren’t able to come up with as many shots on target as they did in the first half. The Rhinos subbed in Jochan Grof, Stefan Defregger, and Sofiane Tergou to try and get on the board, but the 0-0 scoreline held.
It felt like it was going to take something spectacular to break the deadlock, and it was the Rhinos who delivered in the 85th minute. Rochester’s Joseph Farrell sent a precision cross into the Harrisburg box, and Graf was there to meet it at the six yard line and bury it in the back of the net. Rochester had a 1-0 lead with only five minutes plus stoppage remaining.
Harrisburg’s final chance was a free kick just outside of the Rochester box during stoppage time. Paul Wilson’s kick found its way to Rasheed Olabiyi, but he headed it out of bounds. The 1-0 scoreline would hold, giving the Rhinos all three points and the big win in the first leg of the Capelli Sport Hero Cup.
1. Darius Madision appeared to have gotten frustrated by all of his shots being saved. He picked up a yellow card in the 35th minute for an ugly tackle on Harrisburg’s Lee Nishanian but he didn’t seem to tone down his physical play afterward. This might have influenced his substitution for Graf in the 63rd minute.
2. The camouflage uniforms for the inaugural Capelli Sport Hero cup were a nice touch. The color schemes for each team made for an intresting and attractive camouflage pattern. However, from an observational standpoint, it did make the player’s numbers difficult to read and the match was a bit harder to follow as a result.