Match: Harrisburg City Islanders at Saint Louis FC
Date: Saturday, September 9th
Time: 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 7:30 p.m. Central, 5:30 p.m. Pacific, 12:30 a.m. UTC
Venue: Toyota Stadium (Fenton, MO)
Refs: REF: ROSENDO MENDOZA AR1: Shane Kennard AR2: Matthew Thompson 4TH: Alyssa Pennington
How Saint Louis will look: Saint Louis sits a tantalizing four points away from a playoff position with only six matches left to play. But they haven’t been doing themselves any favors lately, losing to Rochester and drawing with Toronto and Ottawa during their last three matches. If they want to close the gap during the final weeks of the season, then they need to get all three points against teams like Harrisburg. But the City Islanders could end up being a bit of the puzzle for Saint Louis because even though the 2017 season is almost over, these teams are meeting for the first time.
How Harrisburg will look: Harrisburg lost their Wednesday match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, but they showed a lot of positive development. They tried out a new 3-4-3 formation that managed to give their offense a boost without giving up too much on the defensive side of the ball. But it’s uncertain if they’ll line up in that formation again as they’re going to be missing center back Tiago Calvano and center midfielder Mo Dabo due to yellow card accumulation. They may choose to just replace them with players like Abass Mohammed and Rasheed Olabiyi, or they may go back to the 4-3-3 look that they’ve used the rest of the season.
What to expect: Harrisburg and Saint Louis didn’t play against each other in 2016 because Saint Louis had shifted to the Western Conference. So this is the first time that Harrisburg will be flying to visit them since June of 2015. Interesting note, Harrisburg’s only goal in that match was scored by none other than the Philadelphia Union’s Eric Ayuk.
Look for Saint Louis to take the initiative to start off the match because they’re the team that has the most to play for. They’ve struggled away from home this season, so the three match home stretch that they’re about to enter will make or break their playoff chances. If they’ve been watching much tape on Harrisburg, they know that their weakness right now is set pieces. Saint Louis may look to get creative off of some free kicks or corners to get ahead early.
Harrisburg’s focus should be on keeping Saint Louis away from the attacking third as much as possible. This is easier said than done, especially because Harrisburg tends to press their defenders pretty high. But they’ve given up too many goals on either quick turnovers or by conceding too much space to opposing players around the box. Everything about this match up points towards a low scoring affair, and allowing even a single goal to slip through could spell doom for their chances Saturday night.
PREDICTION: Harrisburg looked lively earlier in the week, but their road woes have been major all season. I think the playoff hungry Saint Louis side gets the win 2-1.