A draw was the last thing on either team’s mind when Harrisburg and Orlando walked onto the pitch Wednesday night. Orlando in particular had only managed a draw in each of their last four matches. More importantly, splitting points would still leave each side wallowed in the bottom end of the playoff picture. But after a tough, even ninety minutes, both sides were forced to settle for the nil-nil draw.
The hero of the first half for both teams was the trusty crossbar. Harrisburg’s Paul Wilson met it first after an Orlando turnover in the third minute. He made it to the top of the box and curled a shot out of the range of goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., but it kissed off the crossbar and stayed out. Orlando’s Pierre da Silva would run into a similar problem off of a free kick later in the half. The ball was positioned close to the sideline, and it didn’t seem like a good ball to send for the goal. Da Silva decided to give it a go, and he very nearly caught Brandon Miller unawares. Fortunately for Harrisburg, Miller was able to get a piece of the ball and send it into the crossbar to save a goal.
Neither side found many other chances in the first half. Orlando controlled the majority of possession, and the OCB midfield was sticking tight whenever Harrisburg got the ball in their half. This slowed down the Harrisburg attack considerably and resulted in several turnovers near midfield.
This style of play continued into the second half, with similar results. Orlando’s best chances of the night came right around the hour mark. Another da Silva free kick was sent into the box and ping ponged dangerously in front of the net for several seconds before a sea of Islanders cleared the ball. An even more dangerous opportunity came just a few minutes later when Da Silva got loose in the box and ran down to the end line before attempting a cross. Miller blocked it, but the rebound fell at the feet of Orlando’s Scott Thomsen. But Thomsen rushed his shot on the open net and sent the ball well over the crossbar.
Both sides seemed to be slowing down until a break in play for injury in the 85th minute. Harrisburg’s Paul Wilson went down with an apparent abdominal injury and he was eventually carried off the field on a stretcher after a few minutes. This quick breather brought both sides around, and the attacking play picked up in the final ten minutes as both sides went for the win.
The fresh legs of Harrisburg subs John Grosh and Jake Bond were employed several times to chase down long passes and cross them back for Jonny Mendoza or Ropapa Mensah. Mensah had a particularly good look in the 87th minute, but his shot went just wide. Several other late shots were on target, but they didn’t have much power behind them and they were collected by Edwards Jr.
Orlando’s final opportunity came deep in added time as da Silva once again found space on the left side. In a repeat of their earlier opportunity, he was able to cross the ball to Thomsen. Thomsen’s shot was true this time, but Miller was ready to make the clutch save and preserve the shutout.
Both sides are back in action on Saturday. In a bit of a twist, Harrisburg is the team that will be playing in Florida as they make their first trip to visit the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Orlando City B will be heading north as they prepare to take on FC Cincinnati.
- The draw creates a real mess for teams jostling for playoff positions. Currently there are four teams stuck with 24 points. New York Red Bulls II own the tiebreaker based on wins, but the Ottawa Fury have the advantage because of games-in-hand. With only about a third of the season to go, there’s currently six or seven teams who will be fighting for, at most, one or two playoff positions.
- The injury bug strikes again for the City Islanders. Paul Wilson is currently tied for the team lead in goals and he has consistently been one of Harrisburg’s most dangerous attackers out of the midfield. It’ll be a serious blow if he ends up missing significant time for this injury.
- Orlando’s commentary crew was one of the strongest that I’ve listened to so far in 2017. During one exchange, they pointed out during the match that visiting players will often enter Orlando City Stadium with their phones up to capture the sight. A quick review of some of the Instagram accounts for the City Islanders reveals that they’re 100% correct.