Monday, November 16, 2015
The Harrisburg City Islanders were the Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde of the USL season. When the City Islanders were good, they competed strongly with the best teams in the league. When they weren’t, they could also lose to just about anyone.
The one thing the side wasn’t was dull, with more than 100 goals being scored combined in their games. An inconsistent defense led to Bill Becher’s side missing the playoffs in the USL era, but with a good core of attacking players set to return in 2016, the side could rebound in a big way.
2015 USL Season in Review:
Place: 8th in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 49
Goals Against: 53
2015 leaders: Jason Plumhoff (10 goals), Jose Barril (7 assists), Nick Noble (77 saves, 9 shutouts)
Greatest moment of 2015: The City Islander had already fallen twice to Keystone Derby rival the Pittsburgh Riverhounds twice, and conceded 11 goals in the process, when the two clubs met at Skyline Sports Complex on July 26. It appeared the Riverhounds were set to add a third victory, too, as they took a two-goal lead in the second half on an own goal just past the hour-mark, and Harrisburg’s Jose Barril was sent off for his second yellow card. Harrisburg fought back, however, as Craig Foster cut the deficit in half in the 71st minute, and then tied the game with 11 minutes to go as he put home a cross by Jason Plumhoff. The game went back-and-forth in the final 10 minutes as both sides threatened to grab victory, but in stoppage time it was Plumhoff who slid in to put home a cross by Cardel Benbow to grab a dramatic victory, and a modicum of revenge for the Riverhounds’ comeback win earlier in the season.
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Lowest moment of 2015: While most of the league’s fans, and particularly Louisville City FC fans, reveled in Matt Fondy’s pursuit of the league’s goal-scoring record alongside OKC Energy FC’s Danni König, there was likely no other player who made Harrisburg’s fans suffer more in 2015. Fondy scored seven goals in two games against the City Islanders, including a season-high four-goal game at Skyline Sports Complex on August 12, which put major nails in Harrisburg’s coffin on the way to missing the postseason.
What went right? The City Islanders’ attack was potent, as seven players had three goals or more during the regular season. Jason Plumhoff featured early, and the midseason addition of Craig Foster provided a big boost as he chipped in eight goals in 14 games. With Plumhoff also providing good service alongside creative midfielders Jose Barril and Enric Valles, the City Islanders were exciting to watch going forward both at home and on the road.
What went wrong? The City Islanders’ defense recorded a shutout in one third of its contests this season. The problem was it conceded an average of 2.8 goals per game in its other 19 matches. This inconsistency, which saw the side concede four goals in a game eight times, proved to be the team’s downfall. A year of experience should help the side, but Harrisburg will want to put the memories of its defensive struggles behind it quickly as it moves into 2016.
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