After falling down by a goal in the second half the Islanders needed another last-second miracle at home to grab a point against the Charleston Battery at FNB Field on Saturday night.
Harrisburg took the early lead off of a blistering shot by Rasheed Olabiyi before giving up two quick goals in the second half to a Charleston side that was playing with only 10 men.
It looked like the Battery were going to come off of City Island with the three points but the Islanders kept pressing until Jonny Mendoza banged home a bouncing ball at the end of stoppage time.
“I just decided to crash the box hoping someone would put the ball back,” said Mendoza. “It came across from the right side and I decided to go through any defender who tried to get the ball.”
Although Harrisburg was able to grab a point out of the game, the players and especially Bill Becher knew that they missed an opportunity to grab three points against one of the best teams in the league.
“It’s disappointing,” said Head Coach Becher. “We played a good first half and were a man up. Then we had to pull it out at the end to get a draw and that’s not good enough, we have to be better.”
With the draw, Harrisburg stays undefeated at FNB Field in 2017 and gains one point in the standings. Harrisburg returns to FNB Field on Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
At the outset of the match, Charleston held the majority of possession and registered the first shot of the game within the first few minutes. Although the Battery kept the pressure high the City Islanders defense held strong and only allowed three shots in the first half.
Brandon Miller made a sprawling save on a Battery shot that was ultimately called back on an offsides call. Although the save won’t show up on the scoresheet, it was a glimpse into the skill that Miller has in the net.
Harrisburg started to push back and regain possession, which led to a series of chances on the Battery’s net. Swift and clean plays by the Islanders through the midfield allowed the forwards to showcase their speed.
After probing the defense Harrisburg finally broke the ice with a hard thumping shot from Olabiyi that blew right by Alex Tabakis. Olabiyi played the perfect touch after intercepting the ball from a Battery defender and found the back of the net for his first goal of the season.
Harrisburg took a one-goal lead into the locker room.
The game changed in the first 10 minutes of the second half when Charleston’s Tah Anunga received his second yellow card and was sent off in the 53rd minute.
Despite being a man down, the Battery weren’t phased. Ataulla Guerra netted the equalizer in the 68th minute followed quickly by Romario Williams’ league-leading seventh goal to take the lead in the 69th minute.
Harrisburg dictated play for the remainder of the match but looked to be just shy of finding the equalizer to keep their home unbeaten streak alive.
The eager Islanders fans at FNB Field would have to wait until the bitter end of the six minutes of stoppage to see another piece of late-game magic from the City Islanders.
Paul Wilson swung the ball in for one last effort to equalize and after a series of headers, the ball landed right at the feet of Mendoza who was right on the doorstep to knock it home.
The Harrisburg City Islanders return home in just three days to take the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the second leg of the Keystone Derby Cup presented by K&L Gates and The Pennsylvania Lottery.
Harrisburg dropped the first game in a heated match that saw two Islanders players receive red cards. The City Islanders will look to tie up the season series before the third leg right back at FNB Field on Saturday, August 12.