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Match recap: Harrisburg City Islanders 0 - Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3

Woof.

Harrisburg City Islanders

At around 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, a storm rolled out of the west and struck City Island in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Oh, did you think I meant a metaphorical storm? No, it was an actual thunderstorm that hit the island. There was even a tornado watch for a little while there. The metaphorical storm didn’t hit City Island until closer to 7:00 p.m.

The rain had cut through much of the humidity in the surrounding areas, and the temperature in the city itself was noticeably cooler. But for some reason this did not extend to the area surrounding FNB Field. The humidity lay heavy inside the stadium and added to the already tense atmosphere. Not that anything was necessary to raise the tension on the field Saturday night. Harrisburg and Pittsburgh came into the match with everything to play for. Playoff position, the Keystone Derby Cup, and pride were all at stake.

Both sides managed to keep things tight… for about the first thirty minutes. Harrisburg had their first shot in the sixth minute, while Pittsburgh’s Romeo Parkes worked his way into a good position in the 15th minute only to see his shot roll just wide. But even early on it felt like the Riverhounds were the ones playing with all the momentum. They developed their attack by shutting down the City Islanders at midfield and making key interceptions of some poorly placed passes.

This is exactly what came back to bite the City Islanders in the 28th minute. A Parkes pass was broken up by Harrisburg, but the defender rushed his first pass and sent it right back to Parkes with room to work. He sliced through the defense and slotted the ball past Harrisburg goalkeeper Brandon Miller to put the visitors up 1-0.

Harrisburg responded well to this piece of bad news, as they often do. The City Islanders attack perked up a bit for the rest of the half, but the quality chances were few and far between. Even worse, it appeared that Pittsburgh’s Corey Hertzog had scored the match’s second goal in the 40th minute, but the flag had gone up at the last second. Harrisburg was fortunate to go into the half down by only a goal.

The second half brought a bit of a break in the heat and humidity, but much of the same play down on the pitch. Pittsburgh was playing like the more dominant team, but Harrisburg was managing to keep them in check. The City Islanders nearly found an equalizer in the 53rd minute thanks to a rocket shot from Jonny Mendoza, but Pittsburgh keeper Trey Mitchell was in position to make the save.

The second Riverhounds goal came suddenly off of a big Harrisburg defensive error. Paul Wilson tried to send a header back to Miller, but he was a bit too far away to pull it off successfully. Pittsburgh’s Chevy Walsh was close enough to make a play for the ball and he got to it just as Miller went to pick it up at the top of the box. The ball came free and Walsh was able to tap it into the open net and put the Riverhounds up 2-0.

So Harrisburg was now down two goals, which is a significant margin for a team that hasn’t scored in their last four matches. In addition, the City Islander’s worst weaknesses tend to be exposed when they’re playing from more than a goal down. The defenders are forced to move much higher into the midfield, leaving them prone to being exposed on breakaways. Then the midfielders are forced to make more risky passes in order to try and generate chances, but that just leads to more interceptions by the defense. Harrisburg’s passing accuracy in the Pittsburgh half was only 61.4%.

While Harrisburg was struggling to try and get back in the match, Pittsburgh put another nail in the coffin. Their third goal came off of a set piece, making this the third consecutive match where Harrisburg has conceded a set piece goal. The Riverhounds played a corner short and then crossed it in to Romeo Parkes. He was able to send a low pass back to an unmarked Chevy Walsh who bounced it past Miller for his second goal of the night.

There was only about fifteen minutes left to play, but the writing was on the wall for the City Islanders. The best opportunity for them to get on the scoreboard didn’t come until added time when Paul Wilson was able to collect a pass in front of an open goal, but his shot went just over the crossbar. Harrisburg would go down by a 3-0 scoreline for the third time in their last five matches.

While the heat and humidity had dissipated (only to be replaced by various flying bugs) there was still basically zero air movement on City Island after the match. But no one would have noticed if it weren’t for the post game fireworks display. The smoke from the fireworks hung over the field after they was over. It made for an eerie sight for the fans leaving City Island, and it basically summed up the current state of the Harrisburg City Islanders.

City Island is burning.
Chris Bratton

EXTRA THOUGHTS:

  1. Brandon Miller deserves a lot of credit for the work he put in during the second half. He shook off the second goal and rebounded to make several key saves to keep the game from getting any further out of hand. He wound up with six saves for the night.
  2. After this run of poor form, Harrisburg thankfully gets some time off. Their next match isn’t until August 23rd, and their next match after that one won’t be until September 6th. This down time should go a long way towards getting the City Islanders back on track. They always seem to play better then they’re not forced to play two matches a week.
  3. Pittsburgh accomplished every single one of their goals Saturday night. They won the cup, broke out of their goal scoring funk, and they greatly improved their playoff chances. Now they need to focus on harnessing this momentum because their remaining schedule is a tough one.