Facing an amateur team for the second consecutive round, it was imperative to demonstrate they were the better side as professionals.
That is exactly what the City Islanders did with two goals in the first 15 minutes to eliminate Reading United AC with a 3-0 win Wednesday at Don Thomas Stadium.
“We came out to prove we were the professional side,” Harrisburg midfielder Jake Bond said. “We said we were going to be the dominant ones. Come out the first 15 and set the dominance.
“For the first 25 minutes we were all over them and they didn’t have anything.”
The win sends Harrisburg to face the Philadelphia Union for the fourth time in six years June 14. Reading was eliminated and matched Michigan Bucks and Chicago FC United as the PDL teams to advance the furthest in the tournament.
The scoring came easy early for the City Islanders. Pedro Ribeiro sent Daniel DiPrima a pass into the middle of the box that DiPrima finished in space in the 8th minute.
Seven minutes later, Bond controlled a long pass and sent a volley past Reading goalkeeper Ben Beaury following a perfect long pass from Abass Mohammed.
“When you play PDL teams you know the longer the game goes the more confidence those teams get,” Harrisburg head coach Bill Becher said. “The key is to jump on them early which is what we were able to do.”
Coming back from behind to pull a Second Round upset against the New York Cosmos, Reading United made a similar push late in the first half. This time, Reading struggled to get the final touch with Sean Lewis coming up with big saves when necessary.
Frantzdy Pierrot and Hugo Delhommelle had multiple chances on one rush in the 21st minute but their three chances were stopped. Lewis made his biggest save of the night on Delhommelle.
Turning with the ball from the penalty marker, Lewis reacted to Delhommelle’s unobstructed shot to send it over the bar.
“I’m feeling confident now,” Lewis said. “I’ve had a few games in a row now and really getting my feet under me.”
Lewis finished the night with nine saves, seven coming in the first half.
“By the end of the first half we were lucky to escape 2-0,” Becher said. “They probably deserved a goal, maybe two.”
Harrisburg ended any hopes of a Reading comeback in the 50th minute. Bond, making the change from right back to midfield, scored his second receiving a deflection in the box to find the back of the net.
Pierrot with Delhommelle finished with eight and five shots respectively but were unable to find the back of the net.
“Finishing and sloppy mistakes,” Reading head coach Stephen Hoagn said were his sides’ downfall. “If we defend like we teach to defend we’re still in the game at halftime even if we don’t convert our chances.”