Battery, Red Bulls II share the points in entertaining draw

The Charleston Battery and New York Red Bulls II ended all square after 90 minutes of a back and forth, open game on Saturday night.

The first half was much a war of attrition, with both teams testing the other. By many accounts, New York had the better possession, while the Battery had the better chances.

However, it was the Red Bulls who would have the first chance. Odisnel Cooper was forced into a point blank save from a corner in the 21st minute, which was headed for the top corner but for the ‘Keeper’s intervention after a Red Bulls player was the only man to meet the set piece.

The scoring was opened as the first half drew to a close after Dane Kelly used his strength to beat Andrew Jean-Baptiste, finding Houston Dynamo loanee Memo Rodriguez at the top of the box, whose shot seemingly took a deflection and beat Rafael Diaz in the Red Bulls goal.

After the half-time break, the Red Bulls came out with a plan to make the most of the possession they’d had in the first half.

It didn’t take all that long for NYRBII to threaten, getting an indirect free kick inside the box for an illegal backpass just five minutes into the first half.

Whilst it hit the wall and was eventually cleared, the pressure didn’t stop there. The Battery defense were being pushed farther and farther back by the Red Bulls’ pressure, and it invited a shot from long range, which Odisnel Cooper had to tip over the bar acrobatically to keep the scores level.

The Battery would counter well in the 63rd, with Quinton Griffith playing an excellent early ball looking for second half sub Ricky Garbanzo, which failed to find its target but fell to Dane Kelly, who hit the post, and Sebastien Turiere skied his shot from just outside the box.

And the Red Bulls would make them pay for the miss when a free kick was played into the box, and Anatole Abang rose at the near post to level the scoring in the 68th minute.

The goal seemed inevitable as NYRBII had come out from half time the much better side, and were finally rewarded for their efforts.

With 15 minutes to go, the Battery had a chance to go back in front when a fast counter led to a break away from Ricky Garbanzo, who tore away from inside his own half, getting the ball and beating every defender for pace before his final touch let him down and Rafael Diaz was able to collect.

Garbanzo went down from the ensuing contact, but center official Daniel Fitzgerald decided the keeper won the ball cleanly.

With just over six minutes to go in the match, the Red Bulls looked to have had a winner after jumping first to a header and beating Cooper in the Battery goal, only to have the ball cleared off the line.

The Red Bulls then had a chance off the counter in stoppage time, with goalscorer Abang through on goal after beating his man by holding off a challenge, but Abang’s finish was just wide of the post.

It was the Battery who had the final chance of the evening, when Justin Portillo’s shot from just outside the box was saved only to find Ricky Garbanzo, but his rebound hit the outside of the post just before the final whistle blew.

The Battery were without captain Jarad van Schaik in midfield as well as Navion Boyd, the former training during the week but was left out of the side as a precaution due to a knee problem. Boyd injured his ankle in training, and did not train.

The match ended as an entertaining 1-1 draw. The Battery travel to Wilmington to take on the Hammerheads on Sunday, April 26th, while the Red Bulls next return home on Wednesday April 22nd against the Richmond Kickers.

Make sure you are following Reckless Challenge on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook.

Sacramento Republic Dominate T2 in Front of Sellout Crowd

The Bonney Field expansion is finally done and Sacramento Republic FC celebrated by treating the sellout crowd of 11,242 fans to a truly dominant 3-0 win over Portland Timbers 2. The performance was one of the best overall ones I have ever seen from the team, who truly looked the part of reigning USL Champions. Goals from Rodrigo Lopez, Mickey Daly, and rookie Zev Taublieb highlighted Saturday’s action.

The Lineup

The starting XI for Sacramento’s rematch against T2 was: Patrick McLain; James Kiffe, Mickey Daly, Nemanja Vukovic, Emrah Klimenta; Rodrigo Lopez, Ivan Mirkovic, Octavio Guzman, Max Alvarez; Justin Braun and David Estrada.

The first notable thing about Saturday’s starting XI was the return of both Nemanja Vukovic and Max Alvarez. Although they had each made at least one prior appearance, this was the first start for each of them. With their return, Sacramento was able to put out arguably their preferred starting XI for the first time this season. An argument could be made that a real preferred XI would include Tommy Stewart in place for Estrada, but there is no way to know for certain. What is certain, is that Estrada has made concrete contributions to the team so far, with three assists and a goal to his name after just six games.

On the bench for the home team were: Domimik Jakubek, Alfonso Motagalvan, Cameron Iwasa, Zev Taublieb, Joaquin Rivas, Gabe Gonzalez, and Augistin Cazarez.

The Match

The Republic did not waste too much time in getting things going, with Rodrigo Lopez opening the scoring in the thirteenth minute with some help from Harrison Delbridge’s shin.

T2 did one of the worst things to possibly do at Bonney Field during the run up to the goal. They gave Rodrigo Lopez space in which to work inside Zone 10 and he punished them with a little help from a former teammate.

Lopez helped to double the Republic’s lead in the 37th minute when his free kick service found center back Mickey Daly for a free header in the box. Daly burned two former teammates on the play, getting free from Harrison Delbridge and powering his header past Jake Gleeson.

Republic goalkeeper Patrick McLain helped to preserve the lead, making all of his three saves of the match in the first half, and the teams went into the break with Sacramento leading 2-0.

While the second half was not as goal-heavy as the first, it was the half that Sacramento truly showed their dominance. While USL unfortunately does not keep possession stats, it is not that far of a stretch to say that the Republic had the ball about 70 to 75  percent of the time in the second half. It seemed as though Portland could barely get onto the ball for any extended period of time.

The lone goal of the second half, and the one that put the final nail in T2’s coffin, was rookie Zev Taublieb’s first professional goal, in the 82nd minute. Taublieb was the beneficiary of a nice flowing move by the home side, with a buildup of 11 passes with 8 different players touching the ball.The final sequence was put together by Lopez, Kiffe, and Estrada.

Lopez found Kiffe streaking up the left wing and the fullback put in a first time cross for Estrada, whose finish was well saved by Gleeson. But Taublieb was waiting in the wings and pounced on the rebound.

The rookie’s goal was the last of the match and the Republic spent the last ten or so minutes of the match comfortably protecting both their three goals and their three points. Those points also vaulted them to first place in the USL Western Conference, with Arizona United and Seattle Sounders 2 both just three points behind in a tie for second place.

Man of the Match

While Zev Taublieb should absolutely get recognition for his first professional goal and Patrick McLain showed well the relatively few times he was called upon, neither turned in Man of the Match type performances. That distinction goes, once again, to Rodrigo Lopez, who once again recorded a goal and an assist.

At this point it might behoove USL to just write his name in for the Team of the Week in pen to save themselves the trouble of adding it again every week. I do not exaggerate when I say that Sacramento Republic fans are lucky to be able to see Lopez ply his trade in the capital, because he absolutely belongs at a higher level.

What’s Next

Next up for the Republic is yet another home game, this time against Orange County Blues FC. Sacramento fans may remember the Blues best from the 6-1 drubbing that the Republic gave them near the end of the 2014 season. However, with a brand new coach and coming off a 3-0 win over formerly-undefeated Arizona United, these Blues look to be made of sterner stuff than the 2014 version.

The match kicks off at 7:30 on Friday, April 24 and as always, it will be streamed live on the Sacramento Republic YouTube page.

For more Sacramento Republic coverage, including further thoughts on the win over T2 and clips from post-match interviews with Zev Taublieb, Mickey Daly, and Patrick McLain, make sure to tune into Beeman’s Republic, the only podcast dedicated entirely to Sacramento Republic coverage.

City Islanders Welcome New Opponent FC Montreal

12TH HOME OPENER AT SKYLINE SPORTS COMPLEX

Tonight the Harrisburg City Islanders will be hosting their twelfth ever home opener on City Island, along the banks of Susquehanna River across from the downtown of the capital city of Pennsylvania. This year they face a new opponent, FC Montreal (owned and operated by Montreal Impact of MLS), one of numerous new franchises added for the 2015 USL season. The City Islanders are now the sixth oldest franchise in the current 24 team USL. They began in 2004 with a home opener win against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds who would become their main rival from the moment on. After winning a Championship in 2007, reaching USL PRO finals in 2011 and 2014, and only missing the playoffs twice over eleven seasons, they now find themselves at the bottom of the table in 2015 after two games on the road.

FC Montreal

HOW HAVE HCI FARED SO FAR?

Many fans knew this season would be a struggle due to losing important players over the off season but they were not sure how difficult it would be. Well the City Islanders were thrashed 5-2 at Highmark Stadium by the Riverhounds in one of the worst defeats in club history. The next week they followed up with an improved performance against the Eastern Conference leading Charleston Battery but were defeated 2-0. With a bye week and a friendly 1-1 draw against University of Maryland, the boys in blue are ready to take on their new opponents and earn their first points of the season but will they? FC Montreal will have something to say about that.

WHO ARE LE BLEU?

FC Montreal are made up of Montreal Impact academy players mostly from the province of Quebec. This will be the Canadian outfit’s first away match this season after suffering two defeats at home. In their home opener they lost to Toronto FC 2-0 at Olympic Stadium and last weekend they lost 3-0 on their outdoor turf field to rivals Rochester Rhinos. Despite losing three-nil, the score line does not show the effort of the Impact academy products who were reduced to 10 men in the second half.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Harrisburg City Islanders: Goalkeeper Nick Noble is back on the island of his fourth season, one of the most important players to Harrisburg’s playoff push last year. His performance will be vital for HCI to earn victory because of an inexperienced backline in front of him. Left back Neil Schaffer earned the captain’s band for 2015 due to their retirement of long time midfielder Jason Pelletier; his leadership on and off the pitch will be crucial during tough times.

FC Montreal: Forwards Victor N’Diaye and Lajoie-Gravelle were linking up very well throughout the match against Rochester and could break through for the team’s first goal of the season against a weakened Harrisburg backline. Goalkeeper David Paulmin was outstanding versus the Rhinos and kept the match from getting very ugly after his side were reduced ten men and kept a first half clean sheet.

THE PREDICTION 

This is not the first season Bill Becher has dealt with a big roster turnover from the previous season, he will work with his team and make them better as the season progresses. A win at home against a very youthful FC Montreal will be a great way to start that and give his side some confidence. The visitors are hungry to get their first goal of the season and have a lot of young talent in attack.

Harrisburg 2-1 Montreal

Make sure you are following Reckless Challenge on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook.

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.

FC Montreal defeated by Rochester in rivalry revival

10-man FC Montreal were defeated 3-0 by the Rochester Rhinos

SETTING THE STAGE

One of the best rivalries in North America at the time of the A-League was between Montreal and Rochester, and they met again on Saturday.

Rochester had claimed four points in two matches this season, a draw at NYRB II and a victory at the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Montreal did not fare so well in their first match, as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in the home opener at Olympic Stadium.

David Paulmin got the start this week in goal for FC Montreal instead of Yann-Alexandre Fillion, who started last week against Toronto FC. The change can be presumed to have been made with the intent of sharing playing time as opposed to performance issues. A high quality turf pitch with a few bleachers shadowed by Olympic Stadium, served as the venue for this fixture.

Stade Saputo Turf Field
Stade Saputo Turf Field

SUMMARY

FC Montreal revived the rivalry with Rochester at Stade Saputo Turf field, located between Stade Saputo and Olympic Stadium. Rochester controlled possession in the middle early on, but had a lot of turnovers in the offensive third of the pitch. Around the 20th minute, the Rhinos’ Tony Walls got his head on a corner but was not able to put the attempt on frame. In the following minutes, FC Montreal were able to stretch the Rhinos’ defense and create a couple chances. Each side had three corner kicks by the 30th minute mark, with neither side able to convert. Rochester had the tendency to win the ball but then turn over right away with a bad a pass, or trying to dribble out of the back.

Jonny Mendoza scored a beautiful goal off a counter attack just for Rochester, after his squad was temporarily reduced to 10 men due to an injury. The Colombian ripped his shot from the center of the field, just a few inches outside the eighteen yard box, a curler that beat Paulmin to the far post. Following the goal, Rochester created a couple more chances and only allowed one to FC Montreal.

Montreal came out of the dressing room for the second half with a lot of energy, and were giving Rochester everything they had. The Rhinos’ Colin Rolfe,had suffered a knock earlier in the match and Lilley, not wanting to take any risks, replaced him with Christian Volesky in the 54th minute. Daivid Paulmin made a great save at the 61-minute mark when a Kenardo Forbes cheeky chip attempt did not catch him off guard. Just four minutes later, Montreal’s Franck Zoue attempted a hard tackle on Alex Dixon from behind, when he was the last defender and Dixon was alone to goal. Zoue was sent off and the ensuing free kick on the edge of the area did not result in a goal.

With FC Montreal reduced to ten men, the Rhinos kept the pressure on, and Volesky, RC’s Week 4 “player to watch” scored a goal in the box off a cross in from the far side at the 68th minute. Volesky scored an extremely similar goal just over a minute later.  Following this moment, the match started getting chippy with some hard tackles, as the commentators alluded to the old rivalry between these two cities. Both teams made a few subs and Rochester controlled the rest of the match. They created numerous more chances, but Paulmin stood on his head, as Canadiens fans would say.

ANALYSIS

N’Diaye and Lajoie-Gravelle were linking up very well throughout the match. FC Montreal should look to build upon that linkage when they attack in future matches. Before the red card, FC Montreal looked promising and composed on the ball. Their performance deserved a goal and the result does not show how they actually played. FC Montreal player of the match has to be Dave Paulmin who made many great saves, keeping the score from getting really ugly. This team has potential, They will score goals soon and most likely against Harrisburg. The Impact youth players were very unfortunate not to score before the red card. They have nowhere to go but up as the season continues on.

Both teams were turning the ball over, back and forth throughout the match, something they will need to improve as the season progresses. The Rhinos were shaky early on with poor passes and attempts to dribble out of the back. However, Onua Thomas Obasi was incredible defensively for Rochester during his 65 minutes of play. Volesky looked great after he came on, and Dixon made some really nice runs. Another road victory for the Rhinos brings them up to seven points as they head into next week.

Man of the Match: Rochester Forward Alex Dixon

WHAT’S AHEAD

Rochester will play their first ever match against Louisville City at Slugger Field on Thursday April 16. Meanwhile Le Bleu will head across the border for the first time the season when they travel south for Harrisburg’s home opener on City Island next Saturday.

Make sure you are following Reckless Challenge on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook.