The PDL’s Baltimore Bohemians hosted the Harrisburg City Islanders at Calvert Hall High School’s Russo Field in Towson, MD, in the third round of the US Open Cup, hoping to upset the USL Pro side. The Islanders found the net three times in the first half, however, and cruised to a 4-2 victory, setting themselves up for a June 17th fourth-round matchup against their MLS parent club, the Philadelphia Union.
The game opened under warm sunny skies, but a chill wind and gray clouds enveloped the home field during the second half. The Bohemians’ hopes were eclipsed sooner than that, as Morgan Langley scored in the eighth minute for Harrisburg. Man of the match Jimmy McLaughlin received the ball just inside the Bohs half, blew by his defender and ran the ball in towards the goal on the endline, before slicing a pass in to Langley who punched the ball in from a few yards out.
According to McLaughlin, the goal followed their game plan to a T. “That was kind of what we were looking to do – connect a couple passes in the middle, and then spray it out wide to our wingers with some pace and try to make something happen,” McLaughlin said. The Bohs did their best to counter the strategy, and in the 19th minute Ryan Tuck tried a bit too hard, when he caught the top of speedy Jose Barril’s foot with his studs and earned a yellow card for the infraction.
To their credit, the Bohs, who played a 4-1-3-2 formation, did not bunker against the pro side. Baltimore was unlucky not to score between the 20th and 30th minutes as they peppered Harrisburg’s goal with a series of attempts, including shots by Brandon Allen, Marquez Fernandez, and Allen’s Georgetown teammate Austin Martz. McLaughlin noted the strong play of the Bohemians, saying, “It took a little to kind get into the game, but I think once we settled in we showed our quality and put together a couple really nice goals.”
In fact, he was the author of the next strike, putting an emphatic end to the danger and making the score 2-0, with a curling shot to the far post from about 22 yards out off of a pass by Barrill. The Islanders ended their first half run with a penalty. Bohs keeper Andrew Harris grabbed Danny DiPrima after the Islander nodded an awkwardly bouncing ball just over him and was rushing to rejoin it before it crossed the endline. McLaughlin stepped up and planted the ball firmly in the back of the net to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead going into halftime.
The sides battled more or less evenly in the second half as the Bohs did a better job at countering the wing play by Harrisburg. The Islanders seemed content to nurse their lead while the Bohs tried to penetrate the Islanders with their own wing play, forcing City’s Brian Sylvestre to make two consecutive saves from sharp angles resulting in corners in the 49th and 51st minutes. Play became a bit chippier with yellows being awarded to Harrisburg’s Barril and Baltimore’s Fernandez in the 60th and 72nd minutes respectively.
The Bohs finally found the net as second half sub Kingsley Onwuka plucked the ball off a defender and punched it home to reduce the deficit to two. That seemed to ignite the Islanders, however, as Langley made an explosive run in the 80th minute down the right wing, eventually beating Harris with a curving shot just inside the near post. Onwuka netted again in the 87th off a cross from Malcolm Harris to give the Bohs a glimmer of hope. As the skies grayed, though, a quick but ugly altercation in midfield saw Baltimore’s Matt Shinsky sent off, while Harrisburg’s Langley saw a yellow for his part in the fracas.
The Islanders move on to meet their MLS parent club, the Philadelphia Union, in the fourth round. The matchup at PPL Park will be a US Open Cup rematch of the 2012 quarterfinal thriller where the Islanders pushed Philly to the brink before the Union claimed their first semifinal spot in the tournament. McLaughlin is looking forward to the matchup, which he previewed this way: “I think it’s funny how the affiliate teams get matched up against their parent teams. You saw that [in 2013 with] Kansas City and Orlando City. Anything can happen with these games and I think there’s gonna be a lot of passion on both sides. I think it should be a fun one to watch and a fun one to play in.”