Match: Harrisburg City Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Date: Saturday, August 12th
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: Luis Arroyo AR1: Brandon Smith AR2: Tyler Wyrostek 4TH: Jaroslaw Werel
How Pittsburgh will look: After Pittsburgh’s win over Harrisburg back in April they proceeded to go on a three match winning streak that helped them climb to a nice position in the Eastern Conference. Since then? They’ve had long stretches of ineffective play and only one win in their last thirteen matches. Consequently they’ve slid all the way down to 12th in the East.
Pittsburgh’s struggles have gone hand-in-hand with a bit of a goal scoring drought. Corey Hertzog’s seven goals in 2017 represent more than a third of Pittsburgh’s total goals, but he’s only been averaging about one goal a month since May. Kay Banjo was showing some flashes of brilliance early in the season, but he hasn’t scored since April. Striker Romeo Parkes was brought back to help boost the offense, but he has only contributed two goals so far this season. The Riverhounds have the weapons, but the scoring just isn’t happening.
You should also watch out for a last second change in front of the Pittsburgh net. Former City Islander Keasel Broome just had wrist surgery and he’s done for the rest of the season. As a replacement, Pittsburgh signed Matt Perrella, who had played for Bethlehem Steel FC last season.
How Harrisburg will look: Pittsburgh’s scoring has been low, but Harrisburg’s has been non-existent. The City Islanders have been held scoreless over their last four matches. They managed about a dozen shots in Tuesday’s match against Rochester, but none of them could find the back of the net. This offensive deficiency needs to end immediately, but the Riverhounds defense will pose a big challenge. Pittsburgh has already held Harrisburg scoreless twice this season.
Harrisburg’s bench has been limited because of injuries to some key players, so expect to see a similar starting XI to the Rochester match. Maybe look for a few players who had been rotated out for rest, like Lee Nishanian and Jake Bond, to get rotated back in. After all, Saturday’s match will be the City Islander’s fourth match in eleven days.
What to expect: With less than a third of the regular season still to play, both the City Islanders and the Riverhounds find themselves in almost the same position. Both sides have been struggling to score goals and get wins. Harrisburg is in the middle of a five match winless streak, while Pittsburgh’s winless streak is currently at seven matches. Each side has managed to collect 24 points, with Harrisburg owning the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh due to having more wins. Both sides have to be thinking in the back of their minds that a loss on Saturday could mean that their postseason chances are almost gone.
The keystone squads have already clashed twice this season, and I expect their third match up to follow much of the same blueprint as their first two. The first match in Pittsburgh saw both sides keeping a solid defensive formation that allowed very few open goal scoring opportunities. The deciding goal in that match came off of a beautiful Corey Hertzog header that would be difficult to duplicate. The second match in Harrisburg was similar, but both sides tried to switch it up and shake the opposing defenses with fast breakaways. But neither side had a real feel for it, and there were tons of offside calls as a result. That match ended up scoreless.
Remember the Keystone Derby Cup matches in 2015? Almost all of them were wild, high-scoring affairs and it was great. These last two seasons have seen more draws and fewer goals and it’s just a lot less fun. So maybe, just maybe, this will end up being one of those “break the mold” type matches where both sides defy expectations and it turns into a shootout. There’s only a small chance of that happening, but it’d be a lot more fun to watch than another scoreless draw.
PREDICTION: Both teams come into Saturday’s match desperate for a win. But this is the USL in 2017, and that’s the reason that I predict that the end result will be a draw. Most likely 1-1, but a 0-0 draw is a real possibility. Of course, that would mean that Pittsburgh wins the Keystone Derby Cup for 2017.