Match: Harrisburg City Islanders vs Charlotte Independence
Date: Tuesday, July 18th
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: Not available at the time of publishing
How Charlotte will look: Charlotte beat Harrisburg 2-0 in their first match and they haven’t looked back since. That win started their six match win streak and allowed them to jump up to second place in the Eastern Conference.
It’s plain to see that Charlotte’s scoring abilities are what’s driving their success. They’ve outscored their opponents by a combined 17-5 during the six match win streak. USL veteran Jorge Herrera has played a huge part in Charlotte’s recent offensive surge. He has found the back of the net ten times in 2017. That’s good enough for 4th place in the league, tied with FC Cincinnati's Djiby Fall. But he’s generous with the ball as well and he has five assists this season.
How Harrisburg will look: Harrisburg was stuck at the bottom of the table less than a month ago. But thanks to their recent run of good form they’ve won four of their last five matches. When the dust settled across the USL last weekend, Harrisburg had risen all the way to number eight on the table. The team that looked to be finished before the season was even halfway over has suddenly jumped up into the playoff race.
Harrisburg comes off of a 1-0 win over Richmond on Saturday thanks to a second half goal from Ropapa Mensah. Mensah’s play has improved greatly as he gets additional minutes and develops more chemistry with the rest of the Harrisburg squad. Expect to see a similar starting XI to Saturday’s match with perhaps a switch of Jake Bond for Cardel Benbow after Benbow appeared to tweak his hamstring on Saturday.
What to expect: Both teams will be playing Tuesday’s match on short rest and the forecast is for more hot and humid weather on City Island. These two factors should combine for a slow start as both sides try to work their way through tired legs. This may throw the Independence off of their typical game plan, as they usually like to attack early and often.
Harrisburg will be leaning on their defense to keep them in the match. If Charlotte starts to run away with it like they have in some of their recent wins, it will be very difficult for Harrisburg to match their scoring numbers. Luckily Harrisburg has an excellent goalkeeper in Brandon Miller, and he has been a huge factor in keeping down the number of goals allowed for the City Islanders this season.
Charlotte’s defense is nothing to overlook either, and their goalkeeper Cody Mizell has been having a solid season as well. That is another reason that Harrisburg will need to keep the scoring down on Tuesday. No teams have managed to get more than two goals past Mizell so far this season.
PREDICTION: Both teams taking the field on Tuesday night are playing their best soccer of the season, but they’ll both be dealing with tired legs. Charlotte has the edge based on their play so far in 2017, but their advantage will be reduced by their longer travel distance and Harrisburg’s home team advantage. So I’m predicting this match goes to a 1-1 draw.
Author’s note: Because Harrisburg is playing two games so close together, I’ll be recapping them as one post. Look for the combined Richmond/Charlotte recap in the middle of next week.