It’s getting quite late in the season for the City Islanders, but they still ran into a couple of 2017 firsts during their match against Toronto FC II on Saturday night. This would ultimately end up being Harrisburg’s first match of 2017 where a player scored a brace, which is either the sign of a troubled offense or a well spread out attack (it’s probably more of the first than the second). It was also the first match in 2017 where Harrisburg would fall behind at one point but then come back and secure a win. While it’s not ideal that the City Islanders would wait until their 29th match of the season to stage their first comeback, it’s better late than never.
Based on the early play, it certainly didn’t feel like Harrisburg would need to stage a comeback against Toronto. The opening minutes of the match were all City Islanders as they controlled the possession and got off multiple shots. But none of these early shots seemed to trouble Toronto goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo. The poor accuracy of the shots may have been due to the City Islander’s choice of Stormtrooper themed jerseys for their annual Star Wars night. Stormtroopers have never been celebrated for their accuracy.
Toronto was willing to absorb the Harrisburg attack early on, and they sprung a quick counter in the 14th minute. It was Shaan Hundal who slipped a perfect pass to Malik Johnson as he made his way behind the Harrisburg defense. Johnson had a one-on-one with Harrisburg goalkeeper Brandon Miller, but Miller was perfectly positioned to save Johnson’s shot. But the close range rocket bounced back out to Hundal, who quickly put the ball into the net to put the visitors up 1-0.
The City Islanders didn’t let their misfortune throw off their game plan, and they continued to control possession as the looked for an equalizer. But Toronto was able to wear down the Harrisburg midfield and they finally started to get some chances of their own as the half went on.
It looked like the visitors were going to be able to take the lead into the half, until Tiago Calvano sent one last long pass into the box from deep in the Harrisburg defense. This pass made it to Pedro Ribeiro’s head, and he managed to lay it out in front of Ropapa Mensah. Mensah hustled to split two defenders and tapped a looping shot up over the keeper. Cavalluzzo got a hand on it, but the ball bounced into the net to tie things up at one. The halftime whistle was blown just seconds after the ensuing kickoff.
Harrisburg left the field with a lot of momentum after the late goal, and they carried it with them as they came back for the second half. It didn’t take them long to find a go ahead goal, once again off of the foot of Mensah. This time it was Cardel Benbow who dribbled the ball past a Toronto defender before feeding it to an open Mensah in front of the Toronto goal. Mensah made one touch and sent a rolling shot to the far post that Cavalluzzo just couldn’t reach. Mensah’s fifth of the year put the City Islanders up 2-1 in the 50th minute.
Toronto tried to shake things up in the 59th minute by making two subs, but they failed to spark the attack for the Young Reds. In fact, Harrisburg kept up the pressure in an effort to put the game out of reach. Benbow had an impressive run that nearly resulted in an open look at the goal, but the Toronto defense recovered just in time to knock it away. Mensah also looked for the hat trick as he made a few more shots from nearly the same position as his second goal, but they went just wide.
The Harrisburg crowd held their breath in the 83rd minute after Mensah went down following a midair collision during a corner. Mensah was subbed out and he was icing his elbow after the match, but it didn’t appear to be too serious. The player he was subbed out for was Aaron Wheeler, who was seeing his first minutes since June 10th. He promptly celebrated by getting a yellow card in the 94th minute.
Toronto managed a few corners late in the match to keep the home crowd on their toes, but the City Islanders defense was able to turn them away. The Harrisburg offense helped run out the clock by continuing to attack the Toronto goal, including a narrow miss by Jonny Mendoza in the 90th minute. This was enough to preserve the 2-1 lead, and the City Islanders celebrated their second win in three matches.
- Benbow and Ribeiro deserve a lot of credit for their excellent assists to help Ropapa Mensah bag his brace. That was Ribeiro’s team leading fourth assist of the season, and he has now managed either a goal or an assist in each of the last four matches.
- Harrisburg dominated most of the stats for the night, outshooting Toronto 20-9. Also, in typical City Islanders fashion, they committed significantly more fouls than their opponents. They committed 22 fouls to Toronto’s 10.
- Harrisburg’s next two opponents are Ottawa and Saint Louis. Coincidentally, those happen to be the two teams that are sitting directly above them in the Eastern Conference standings.