2015 Team Preview: Harrisburg City Islanders

Club: Harrisburg City Islanders

Year founded: 2004

Stadium: Skyline Sports Complex, located on City Island on the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has been the home to the Islanders since the club was founded. It used to be a multipurpose venue with a softball diamond and football goalposts but these days it is soccer specific and has had some very minor upgrades, with a capacity listed as 4,000 but stands that only seat about 1,500. There is a project to build a new stadium with a capacity of 4,500 at the same venue on the island but no official plans to start construction have been announced.

Average Attendance: 1,949 was the average attendance of the Isles last season, the highest average attendance they have had over a season in the club’s history. Many have said a new stadium would double that number.

Ownership: CEO Eric Pettis is the majority owner of a group of investors who founded the club in 2004.

Manager: Bill Becher is the only manager in City Islanders history, with a 105-73-64 career regular season record in charge of the club. He is a Harrisburg Heat (indoor professional soccer) hall of fame member, playing eight years with the team in the defunct NPSL and MISL.

Supporters Group: Sons of the Susquehanna, CI Hecklers

Background: This year marks the 12th anniversary of the club, unveiled on September 24, 2003. The first match was a 5-2 road win over the Northern Virginia Royals, and the first home fixture was a 1-0 victory over rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds in front of 2,832. The City Islanders won the USL-2 Championship in 2007 and reached the USL PRO Final in 2011 and 2014. Harrisburg have only missed the playoffs twice in the club’s history and have reached the US Open Cup quarterfinals on three separate occasions.

Transactions: As usual for the City Islanders going into a new season, a chunk of the new roster will be made up of players from tryouts due to departures from the previous year. This season however, very few players are returning to the club. Listed below are notable players who will not be playing with HCI next season, as well as the players currently signed for 2015.

Departures:

D Jamiel Hardware (St. Louis FC)

M Jason Pellitier (Retired)

M Pedro Ribeiro (Orlando City SC)

F Morgan Langley (St. Patrick Athletic)

F Clesio Baque (Benfica)

Returnees:

G Nick Noble

D Collin Zizzi

D Neil Shaffer

M Jose Barril

M Danny DiPrima

F Garret Pettis

2014 in Review: Harrisburg had a very slow start, only picking up seven points in the first seven matches. The club has historically been dangerous in the US Open Cup however, and in June, the Boys in Blue made a run to the fourth round, meeting up with the Philadelphia Union once again, and falling just short of making another trip to the quarterfinals.

The red socks run began after a Fourth-of-July-themed-uniform match that eventually led to the franchise’s first-ever victory against Orlando City in front of a large crowd at home. The Isle guys’ late summer run got them into the playoffs yet again and the surprises did not stop there. Harrisburg knocked out Orlando and Richmond to reach the league final for the third time in club history, where they lost 2-0 in front of a five-figure crowd in Sacramento.

After the rough start and lack of funding compared to other clubs in the growing USL, Harrisburg’s 2014 season ended up being one of the best in club history.

MLS Affiliate: Philadelphia Union

Preview and Prediction:  Once again, Harrisburg are one of the last teams to put a roster together ahead of the season. But do not count them out of making the playoffs before you see them play competitively. It is very difficult to predict how the City Islanders will fare this season due to the fact that their roster is not  completely known. That being said, Nick Noble is a very important returnee.

Uncertainty of the future of the club, including rumors of the team relocating, along with the league doubling in size and the growth of investment into other clubs, may play into how the team performs this season. Harrisburg may have a hard time keeping up with the pack, but maybe another mysterious red-sock run of luck will sneak them into the playoffs yet again.

Personally, I do not think the City Islanders will make the playoffs this season.

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