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Match preview: Harrisburg City Islanders vs Rochester Rhinos

The battle for the 2017 Capelli Sport Hero Cup

Rochester Rhinos

Match: Harrisburg City Islanders vs. Rochester Rhinos

Date: Tuesday, August 8th

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.)

Stream:

How Rochester will look: Rochester will be wrapping up a three match road trip on Tuesday night, and it has been a weird one so far. First they had a controversial win in Cincinnati where the referee’s calls had a real impact on the outcome of the match. Then they dropped Saturday’s match at New York Red Bulls II, with two of their players picking up red cards in the process, so don’t expect to see Joe Farrell or Kenardo Forbes on Tuesday.

Rochester announced on Monday that you may see Cristiano Francois, as he is finally able to return after missing the last three months due to eye surgery. It’ll be interesting to see if he does make an appearance and what impact he would have on the Rhinos’ big goal scoring threats like Jochen Graf and Wal Fall.

How Harrisburg will look: The City Islanders just returned from a road trip of their own, and it didn’t go well. They only managed to take one point from three matches, and in addition they were held scoreless during all three matches. Harrisburg needs to do something to shake off this run of poor form.

Now that the team’s back from Florida, it’s possible that coach Bill Becher will try something different to shake up the starting XI. Jason Plumhoff could see more minutes after making an appearance as a substitute during the FC Cincinnati match. He was certainly a goal scoring threat during the 2015 season. Or maybe Fredrick Opoku could get some more time to play up top with Ropapa Mensah. Mensah is responsible for Harrisburg’s last two goals, and it’ll be interesting to have more time to see the chemistry he has with his fellow Ghanaian.

What to expect: Tuesday’s match will decide the Capelli Sport Hero Cup. Rochester currently holds the advantage courtesy of their 1-0 victory in July, so they will leave with the cup with a win or a draw. Harrisburg would need to get a win, and it would need to be by more than one goal because Rochester owns the second and third tiebreakers for the cup (away goals and league position). Harrisburg would need to pick up the advantage in goal differential to secure the cup.

The last time these teams met, both sides kept things level for most of the match. Rochester didn’t get the go-ahead goal until the 85th minute, and until that point a draw had seemed likely. Expect this match to unfold in a similar way with most of the real action taking place in the trenches as both sides push through the midfield.

The two players who’ll need to have good nights are the goalkeepers, Brandon Miller for Harrisburg and Thomas Gomez for Rochester. Miller made some spectacular saves when these teams met in Rochester, and that’s what helped Harrisburg stay in the match as long as they did. But Rochester always has quality keepers, and Gomez is no exception. He’s currently tied for the USL lead with eight clean sheets, so it’ll be doubly difficult for the offensively challenged City Islanders to get one past him.

The weather has the potential to impact the match as well. The Harrisburg area has been dealing with several days of wet weather, and the forecast for Tuesday calls for more rain. This has delayed the ground crew’s attempts to lay down the sod for the pitch, so that’ll have to be sorted out on the day of the match.

PREDICTION: The City Islanders have had their struggles, but they’ve played their best at home this season. I predict they pick up a 1-0 win, which would mean that the Hero Cup would go to Rochester.