On a dreary, wet evening that kept all but 820 people from the stands at Hershey Park Stadium, Harrisburg City Islanders were full value for their 3-2 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Union. In a match with added intrigue due to the affiliates upcoming US Open Cup tie at PPL Park on Tuesday, June 26, the match offered both sets of players the opportunity to size up their opponent in this midweek friendly. Despite fielding a primarily reserve team, Garrett Pettis’ brace on either side of Yann Ekra’s 55th minute effort was enough to see off the visiting Union who were kept at bay by the strong defensive work of Andrew Marshall and the quick reflexes of goalkeeper Bryan Holt.
With new signing Jorge Perlaza joining Lionard Pajoy and Josue Martinez up front in a 4-3-3 formation for coach John Hackworth, the Union struggled for possession in the midfield. Harrisburg capitalized on their numeric advantage as they knocked the ball around the trio of Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud and Keon Daniel.
The Islanders were the first off the mark when constant threat Tom Mellor shook free of Jimmy McLaughlin down the Islanders’ left flank. Holding off the challenge of Raymon Gaddis, Garrett Pettis easily side-footed home Mellor’s low cross to open the scoring. With Mellor in fine form on the left and former Union player Morgan Langley giving Gaddis all he could handle on the opposite wing, the Union were kept under duress by the hosts who looked to spread the field at every opportunity.
Late in the first half, the Union’s attack finally sprang to life when Amobi Okugo’s juggling effort in the box fell at the feet of Martinez, who stung the palms of Bryan Holt with a quick drive. On the following corner, Carlos Valdes showed textbook form when he latched onto the cross, smashing his well-struck volley low to the keeper’s right. Holt was again quick to react, but the resulting rebound sat up for Carroll, whose attempted finish was deflected high and wide.
With the pressure beginning to show, the Union would equalize before the half with Perlaza getting on the score sheet in his first match for the Union. Michael Lahoud played Perlaza down the right wing and the Colombian striker powered home the perfect strike from an improbable angle.
Coming out of the break, the Union shuffled their side with six halftime subs with Jack McInerney and Antoine Hoppenot taking over the attacking duties. Roger Torres ran the midfield, combining well with McInerney, who was deployed in a withdrawn role.
Before the Union could fully settle, however, the Islanders stole back into the lead when Lahoud failed to clear his lines, leaving Yann Ekra with the easy task of driving his shot past Chris Konopka in the 55th minute.
With Torres, Kai Herdling and Zach Pfeffer all preferring to work out of the middle third of the pitch, the Union struggled for both width and continuity as they were bottled up by the strong play of Drew Yates and Colin Zizzi in the middle of the park. Too often the only option was a speculative long ball, but Andrew Marshall was strong and consistent at the back.
Still struggling to impose themselves in midfield, another Union turnover helped hand Pettis his brace and Harrisburg their insurance goal on 76 minutes. As the Union drove forward, Lahoud and Torres got their signals crossed. Gaddis was stranded up the wing and Lucky Mkosana took off up the flank and even though the fleet-footed Union defender tracked back, he was unable to catch the speedy winger. The Union defense spread across the pitch, Pettis found space at the back post to volley home the Mkosana’s softly-lofted cross.
Looking to erase the two-goal deficit, the Union fought back only minutes later. Seeing no passing options, right back Jimmy McLaughlin had a run at goal. The speedy, converted attacker beat three men before being cut down, earning the Union a free kick just outside the Islanders box. Kai Herdling stepped up for the kick and sent a low drive past the wall, where it nestled inches inside the far post.
With belief restored, the Union threw numbers forward in the final five minutes of the match searching for the equalizer. First McInerney, and then Herdling went close, but the goal did not arrive for a Union side that will have to wait two weeks to seek revenge in a far more meaningful US Open Cup quarterfinal match.
Chris Konopka; Jimmy McLaughlin, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes (Greg Jordan ’45), Raymon Gaddis; Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll (Kai Herdling ’45), Keon Daniel (Zach Pfeffer ’45); Lionard Pajoy (Roger Torres ’45), Jorge Perlaza (Antoine Hoppenot ’45), Josue Martinez (Jack McInerney ’45)
Unused substitutes: Zac MacMath
Harrisburg City Islanders
Bryan Holt; Matt Baker, Andrew Marshall, Dustin Bixler, Adrian LeRoy; Colin Zizzi, Drew Yates, Yann Ekra, Morgan Langley (Lucky Mkosana ’45); Tom Mellor (Zach Mahan ’62), Garrett Pettis (J.T. Noone ’78)
Unused substitutes: Nicholas Noble, Bilal Duckett, Brian Ombiji, Andrew Welker, Stephen Basso
17 – HCI: Pettis (Mellor)
41 – PHI: Perlaza (Lahoud)
55 – HCI: Ekra
76 – HCI: Pettis (Mkosana)
81 – PHI: Herdling