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Philadelphia Union 1-1 Harrisburg City Islanders

Let’s start with the positives.

About 2,000 fans came out tonight to watch the Harrisburg City Islanders take on the Philadelphia Union in the first-ever installment of their annual friendly match. Of those 2,000, many were clad in Union gear, many sported scarves and jerseys, and everyone got an up-close look at their chosen team. I think respect was exchanged both ways as fans and followers of the Union got a solid introduction to their USL-2 affiliate and die-hard Isles fans might have a better reason to pull for that new team in Chester. The game was back and forth in the first half but stalled out around the 60 minute mark as neither team looked threatening and ultimately ended in a 1-1 draw.

The Union looked dangerous from the 15 minute mark on through the halftime whistle with solid wing play from Fred and Andrew Jacobson. Danny Mwanga headed home a short cross from Fred just before the 30 minute mark and the Islanders did not often escape from their own end minus a handful of long clearances.  (Insert ugly) One of those clearances, the one just after the Union goal actually, found its way to a streaking Jason Hotchkin who crossed it into a vacant middle. The target-less cross was misplayed by Jordan Harvey who managed to collide with an oncoming Chris Seitz as the ball trickled into the Union’s net (end ugly).

Its hard to say—aside from that comically bad own-goal—the Union played reasonably well, but I’m going to say it anyway. The Union went right back to threatening the Islanders goal and trying to find Mwanga as if nothing had happened—points to them for shaking off the mistake at least.

I use the phrase “reasonably well” because through the first 15 minutes of the game, and for large sections of it thereafter, the Union could not manage to pass through the Islanders. They later succeeded in passing around them, passing over them, and forcing them into poor passes, but never successfully broke down the Islanders defense head on. Whether you argue that its a friendly matchup, or a game played without your veteran strikers, there are few excuses for not being able to attack a lower division team head on. Conversely, cheers to the City Islanders for playing hard-nosed, unapologetic defense and frustrating the middle of the Union attack. I realize this was a game for fitness and practice for both teams, but there are lessons to be learned here both for the players and coaches alike.

Game Notes:

The City Islanders sat down their normally reliable starter Danny Cepero to give some minutes to back-up goalie Tomer Chencinski. Chencinski responded with two full stretch saves robbing Nick Zimmerman of a half-volley chance and snatching a goal-bound strike from Andrew Jacobson. He had little chance to stop the Mwanga header and did everything Coach Bill Becher could have asked of him.

Michael Orozco again streaked past the near post on a corner and connected sending a laser just over the bar in the 20th minute. It was eerily similar to his Goal of the Week nominated goal which opened the scoring against Toronto two Saturdays ago. Orozco also managed to avoid discipline from the referee just before the half as he snapped his head back after gaining possession and opened a gash across the forehead of Islander forward Jason Hotchkin.

J.T. Noone played a total of 59 minutes in the friendly—30 in an Islanders kit, and 29 in the second half for the Union. It’s pretty clear that Philadelphia’s favorite guest player and long-term trialist has a roster spot with his name on it—it’s just a question of when.

Le Toux (All Star Game), Moreno (injury), Torres (injury), and Mapp (recent acquisition) were not with the Union. Salinas and Perk were in attendance and dressed but did not play.

Fans who hung around after the match were treated to a dual autograph session as nearly all the Islanders and Union players stayed out. Danny Califf also went up and thanked each person in the supporters section individually after he was beckoned over with shouts of  ‘O Captain, My Captian’. And the thumbnail at the top is correct (and would have been no matter what stand the Sons of Ben sat in) as Skyline Sports complex is located on City Island in the middle of the Susquehanna River.

And finally, the player I enjoyed watching most in the match was recently returned Union man Kyle Nakazawa. ‘Naka’, as teammates yell for him on the field, found space in the final third time after time but failed either to make a chance out of it or successfully connect with a teammate. Despite those shortcomings, which were both exciting and frustrating, Nakazawa ripped 4 or 5 free kicks into the area with astounding accuracy and impressive curl. I’m excited to have Kyle back healthy as his skill on a dead ball is second to none on the Union roster.

The Islanders, The Upper 90, and the Philadelphia Union websites will likely all have more coverage either tonight or tomorrow morning.


  1. Roger torres was in Harrisburg last nite, spoke to him briefly and he said possibly to return this sat.

  2. Good point. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way. 🙂

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