For the fifth straight season, the Harrisburg City Islanders are into the third round of the Lamar Hun U.S. Open Cup and for the third time in those five seasons they find themselves matched up with Reading United A.C.
Harrisburg travels to Exeter Township High School in Reading today, May 31 (7 p.m.) for a chance to advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup for the third time in five years.
In 2015, the Islanders and Reading met at Don Thomas Stadium in the second round. Harrisburg dominated the match against Reading in a 3-0 win. Two current Islanders, Danny Diprima and Cardel Benbow, tallied two of the goals in the match, Ken Tribbett tallied the third.
Although Harrisburg has the edge in the series all-time, in 2013 Reading was able to pull a 1-0 upset over the City Islanders to move on to the third round of the tournament.
Bill Becher will have some decisions to make with regards to a lineup that has been hampered by recent injuries. Benbow missed the last game with a hamstring injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Paul Wilson left the match against Bethlehem early with an injury as well.
“Reading is a team we’ve played quite a few times,” said Becher. “They always have a strong team and we know it’s going to be a challenge especially playing at their place.”
Non-league competitions usually tend to lead to unorthodox lineups and Becher will fine tune his to play against this Reading team. In their last Open Cup outing, players like Jake Bond and Fredrick Opoku both got their first starts in an Islanders uniform in the second round match against the Ocean City Nor’Easters.
Harrisburg made it to the third round after going the distance in extra-time and then penalty kicks against the Nor’Easters. The two teams couldn’t find separation after 120 minutes of play and had to go six rounds in penalty kicks to determine a winner.
Reading has already made an impact during their 2017 U.S. Open Cup campaign with a 3-2 win over the two-time NASL Champions, the New York Cosmos. Reading fell behind early but was able to claw back on three straight goals in the first half.
The current Islanders roster features three former Reading United players in Aaron Wheeler, Manolo Sanchez and Pedro Ribeiro. Sanchez was on the club’s roster during the 2013 upset of the Islanders in Cup play.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for us, but I am looking forward to it,” said Wheeler. “Going back somewhere you had previous success always ignites a little bit of fire inside of you. You want to go back and show up.”
Harrisburg’s success in the U.S. Open Cup has been well documented. In past competitions, they have taken down MLS giants and made long runs into the tournament. Another win for the Islanders would mean a fourth round match with their once partner the Philadelphia Union.
After their U.S. Open Cup match, the Islanders will return to league play with a June 10 matchup against Ottawa Fury FC. Harrisburg returns to FNB Field on June 20 at 7 p.m. for the final match against the Bethlehem Steel.
Grab your tickets to see the Islanders in action against their in-state rivals and for all home games!