Photo: Courtesy of Harrisburg City Islanders
With roughly a month to play in the USL PRO regular season, the City Islanders are faced with two tough road tests this weekend beginning with VSI Tampa Bay (July 19, 7:30pm, USL Live), who are in sixth place with 27 points, followed the next day by league leaders Orlando City (July 21, 7:30pm, USL Live). The Islanders, who started the season winning five of six contests, have lost four of their last six, including the last three matches where they have been outscored 7-3.
City Islanders coach Bill Becher said after the team’s 1-0 loss to second place Richmond Kickers (37 points) last weekend, “When we were 9-3, we weren’t great every game but we found ways to win. This time, it’s kind of going the opposite way. We’ve been good sometimes, but we just haven’t found a way.”
Adding to the recent run of poor form, the Islanders have failed to capitalize on the benefit of playing five of their last six games at home and in that time have been over taken in the standings and now sit in fifth place with 31 points. Though the Islanders maintain a nine point lead with respect to qualifying for the playoffs, a less favorable matchup and a lack of momentum heading to the postseason are certainly concerns.
Becher will be looking to rebound this weekend and get the Islanders back on the right track. But he recognizes it will be a challenge.
“It’s another tough weekend,” Becher said. “We’re saying that every weekend now, but that’s just the case in this league. Outside of the one team [winless Antigua], everyone’s capable of beating everybody else.”
But the Harrisburg coach recognizes that it is a challenge over which the team has some control.
“We’re getting a lot of matchups against the teams we’re battling with, so we can still control our own place,” Becher said. “We’re not in control of first place any more, but we still can control our own destiny as to where we can finish.”
The players understand what’s at stake, even as this weekend’s road trip will be without the team’s biggest offensive threat, Sainey Touray, who is recovering from a hamstring injury.
“It’s tough because Sainey’s been scoring goals and we’re definitely going to miss him, but some guys have to step up and I know I’m one of them,” said Lucky Mkosana.
“Right now, we need to go out there and try to win both games, put us in a better position and that sort of stuff,” continued Mkosana. “After this, we have a home game [Wednesday night against Dayton Dutch Lions, who are in eighth place with 27 points] when we come back from Florida. So we need to make sure we get six points. That would be good.”
After the midweek contest against Dayton, Harrisburg finish out the regular season on the road against Phoenix FC Wolves in Arizona on July 31.
Union loanee update
Philadelphia Union loanees with the City Islanders have lately seen reduced playing time, perhaps due to the recent Gold Cup call ups and injuries shortening the bench with the Union first team. Jimmy McLaughlin has continued to serve in a substitute capacity for Harrisburg with teammates Cristhian Hernandez and Don Anding getting a start against LA Blues (third place, 32 points). Though the Islanders lost that contest, 4-2, Anding recorded a goal and Hernandez an assist.Against Richmond last Saturday, McLaughlin saw only nine minutes of play while Hernandez was an unused substitute.
Greg Jordan, who had been a consistent starter for the Islanders for much of the season, continues to recuperate from a knee injury and has not featured recently.