Harrisburg City Islanders vs. West Chester United in the 2016 US OpenCup. Photo: Kari Haffelfinger
City Islanders FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders) has made a name for itself in the US Open Cup as giant-killers. On Wednesday night, the giant-killers took the role of the giants and held off their amateur opponents in West Chester, Pa.
In front of the largest crowd in West Chester United SC history, the City Islanders scored a goal in each half en route to a 2-0 victory that propelled them to the US Open Cup Third Round. With the win, Harrisburg improved to 12-1-0 all-time against amateur opponents.
After four years of falling just short of the Open Cup, West Chester qualified this year by notching a pair of wins over Philadelphia-area teams Junior Lone Star and Salone FC in the open division qualifying tournament. United, which plays in the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania, advanced past Fredericksburg FC 8-7 in penalty kicks after finishing 1-1 at the end of regulation in the First Round.
With its First Round victory, West Chester got to host an Open Cup game for the first time.
Bobby Warsaw of the City Islanders scores the team’s first goal against West Chester United in the 2016 US Open Cup. Photo: Kari Haffelfinger.
“This is the biggest game we have ever hosted, and it was our first game against a pro side” West Chester coach Blaise Santangelo said. “We filled the place. It was an exciting night.”
The home crowd had very little to cheer about in the beginning of the match. The City Islanders pressed forward early and dominated the first portion of play. The away side was awarded for its effort in the 13th minute. The ball was played into the West Chester penalty area, where City Islanders forward Craig Foster passed it on to Bobby Warshaw. The defensive midfielder made no mistake with his shot, burying it in the back of the net.
City Islanders FC coach Bill Becher said, “Bobby is more of a defensive player usually, but he helps the guys around him a lot. He and the rest of the team played a very good first half.”
After the goal, West Chester started to get some chances going forward. Those chances were not leading to goals, however, and the City Islanders kept threatening with their speed over the top.
Speaking about the City Islanders, Santangelo said, “They kept stretching us defensively. They also played a lot of one-touch soccer, moving our guys around. They were getting us out of our shape.”
The City Islanders, which are currently 12th out of 14 teams in the United Soccer League Eastern Conference, started the second half in much the same way they started the first. Early pressure led to a corner kick in the 49th minute. The initial kick from Jose Barril did not find a player in the box, but the ball was eventually played to Matthew Bolduc, who curled a shot around keeper Charlie Sales to give his team a 2-0 lead.
With a comfortable lead, the pro side took its foot off the gas a little, and West Chester pushed everything forward. In the 59th minute, the home team even scored a goal, only to have the play called back for a foul.
Through a light rain, City Islanders FC held West Chester at bay for the rest of the second half. The 2-0 scoreline held, sending the fans home disappointed.
Becher said, “It was a good result. These games are tricky. We knew it would be a battle. They gave us a tough time, and this tournament is crazy. But we played well enough to get the win.”
With the win, City Islanders FC moves on to the Open Cup Third Round. It will play on the road to another amateur team–Chattanooga FC. A victory there would mean the chance to become giant-killers yet again, as a Fourth Round berth comes with a guaranteed match-up with an Major League Soccer team. Harrisburg has eliminated a MLS team five times since its first Open Cup appearance in 2007.