Match: Harrisburg City Islanders vs Toronto FC II
Date: Saturday, September 16th
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: GUSTAVO SOLORIO AR1: Ben Pilgrim AR2: Kevin Lock 4TH: Joshua Encarnacion
How Toronto will look: Toronto put up a fight the last time they clashed with Harrisburg on July 1st. Unfortunately, they haven’t found much success since that match. But when Toronto comes to play, they can still put on a heck of a game. Consider this, they’ve only gotten three wins in the the last three months, but two of those wins were over Charlotte and Charleston. In case you haven’t checked in a while, those teams are at number two and number four in the Eastern Conference.
The most promising player for the Young Reds in 2017 has been Jordan Hamilton. He has scored five times this season, easily leading the team. That’s the good news. The bad news for Toronto is that he picked up a red card last Saturday, so he will be unable to play against the City Islanders.
How Harrisburg will look: The City Islanders will be back on the pitch just four days after surrendering a draw to FC Cincinnati late into stoppage time. Harrisburg had played an impressive game up until that point and the players were extremely frustrated to walk away with only one point.
But the big takeaway from that match is how much the Harrisburg offense has recovered since their unfortunate 616 minute scoreless streak. The City Islanders have managed five goals in their last three matches, and all five goals have come from different players. Switching to a 3-4-3 formation appears to have been the spark that Harrisburg’s offense was looking for.
What to expect: Harrisburg started the scoring party early the last time they played against Toronto, and they’ll certainly be looking to do the same thing Saturday night. The City Islanders have become difficult to defend against because they have two different types of goal scorers. They have big guys like Pedro Ribeiro and Ropapa Mensah who can work the ball into the box, but who are also threats when shooting from distance. But they also have smaller, faster players like Paul Wilson and Jonny Mendoza who can get open in a flash and put away an open shot before the defense can react. It’s not an easy task for defenses to protect against both of these types of scoring threats.
Toronto has gotten over their goal scoring problems from earlier in the season, so they no longer have to score once then hunker down on defense to try and win matches. That’s probably for the best as their defense has been a weakness all season. Their 44 goals allowed is second worst in the Eastern Conference (behind only NYRB II). But then again, that’s not much worse than Harrisburg, who have allowed 42 goals this season themselves.
A final factor to consider is that Toronto has already been eliminated from playoff contention. There’s a chance that this will have an impact both on player selection for the Young Reds, as well as their mental focus as the game goes on. With the playoffs out of reach, there’s a chance that a few more academy kids will be called up than normal in order to get them some additional exposure.
PREDICTION: Toronto comes to Harrisburg without their best scorer and with nothing to play for, postseason wise. Meanwhile, Harrisburg is coming off of two disappointing results at home and is probably looking to take out their frustrations on the pitch. I predict Harrisburg takes this one 2-0.