The City Islanders found themselves in the spotlight on Wednesday night as they made an appearance on ESPN 3 as a part of the USL Game of the Week against Louisville City FC. Based on the outcome of the match, they probably should avoid playing on ESPN 3 for the foreseeable future. The 5-0 drubbing by Louisville was their worst performance of the season, and they haven’t been this outclassed on the pitch since they played the Philadelphia Union in the Open Cup.
This was doubly difficult for your humble match recapper because I was unable to watch this match live and I was forced to wait for the YouTube upload (it’s here if you want to put yourself through it). Now I don’t expect much sympathy on a (primarily) Philadelphia Union blog about having to watch a team that has played a lousy match. I surprised myself with the various excuses I came up with to avoid watching this beat down. When I finally did force myself, it was just about as bad as I expected.
This section will be short.
The best news for Harrisburg came in the 69th minute when both Pedro Ribeiro and Manolo Sanchez came on as subs for the City Islanders. Pedro had been unavailable since Harrisburg’s July 8th match in Rochester when he caught an injury right after he won USL player of the week. Sanchez has been out even longer dealing with an injury from the City Islander’s Open Cup match against Ocean City. He scored Harrisburg’s first goal of the season back in week two, but he barely got a chance to show what he could really do before the injury. Having these two back on the pitch is at least something to look forward to.
And Harrisburg goalkeeper Brandon Miller does deserve credit for the work he put in on Wednesday. He made a couple of lightning saves that kept things from getting even worse than 5-0.
This section could be really long, but I’ll keep things brief.
Harrisburg has demonstrated several times this season that they are pretty much out of a match once they’ve gone down by two goals. On Wednesday night, they were down by two after thirteen minutes. It was going to be a long night.
The City Islanders continue to struggle with defending set pieces, and it’s just gotten ridiculous at this point. Three of Louisville’s five goals were the result of set pieces, and at least two of them could have been shut down with better defending. Harrisburg has been struggling to properly mark players during these plays, and it has resulted in plenty of open looks in recent weeks. Worse yet, when they are able to break up the corner, they’ve been unable to get the ball cleared out of the box and far too many loose balls have been tapped into the net. Future opponents are certainly going to exploit this weakness, and this problem could get worse before it gets better.
How does a team move forward from a beat down like this? Harrisburg has two weeks off to recuperate, which is usually a good thing. But the shadow of this loss is bound to hang over training during that time and it could mean that there will be mental challenges for the team to overcome. Harrisburg should probably look to the Western Conference, where LA Galaxy II took a 9-0 loss earlier in the season and they’ve managed to bounce back at least somewhat.
Of course the biggest, ugliest elephant in the room is the now six match scoreless streak. To put it another way, Harrisburg has played 18.75 percent of the season without scoring a goal. If you add in the second half of the Charlotte match, Harrisburg has gone a full 585 minutes without scoring. So you could binge watch an entire season of The Office in the time it has been since Harrisburg last scored a goal. And not one of the shorter seasons, either.
I don’t know what it’s going to take to fix Harrisburg’s problems, but it has got to start with them scoring a goal.