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Harrisburg City Islanders vs. TFC II: Preview & stream

The Young Reds hit the road for their final away day of the season, Pennsylvania-bound to meet the City Islanders at 7 pm on Saturday night

USL Photo - TFC II’s Jordan McCrary gets on the ball in a 3-1 loss away to Bethlehem Steel FC
McCrary has been a bright spot for TFC II over the last few months having taken to the wing-back role
Bethlehem Steel

Toronto FC II will be closing out their 2017 USL season over the coming weeks. Four matches remain for the Young Reds, who were eliminated from playoff contention following last weekend's 2-1 loss to New York Red Bulls II at BMO Field.

Though the post-season does not await, there remains plenty for which to play. Not only can the side play spoilers, but every 90 minutes is a chance for these young players to hone their skills; to prove that they deserve to be back next year; that they have a place in the professional game.

As such there is no reason to expect a drop off in performance. There is disappointment, as Jason Bent indicated midweek, but pride is a strong motivator.

“Our mentality doesn't change,” said Jason Bent after training on Wednesday. “Trying to get three points, perform well. To go on the road and pick up points, steal points from the opposition is always good thing.”

The side will close their year with three final home matches, but up first lies a tricky away fixture, away to the Harrisburg City Islanders, who may be the first to taste the wrath of a team with nothing to lose.

Like TFC II, the season has been unkind to Harrisburg.

Entering the match, the City Islanders sit in 13th spot in the Eastern Conference on 28 points from 28 matches. With four games left, they are eight points on the playoff pace: should Toronto steal a win and results elsewhere go against the hosts, Harrisburg will join their guests in looking forward to next season.

With a record of seven wins, fourteen losses, and seven draws, like Toronto, Harrisburg's struggles are based largely in a paucity of goals. Where TFC II has 20, Harrisburg has only 23. Also like Toronto they have conceded far too readily, allowing 42, just two fewer than the Young Reds.

A team can get by by either scoring few and conceding fewer – like the Rochester Rhinos have for example – or they can aim to outscore their opponents, conceding heavily, but always managing to net more – such as NYRB II. The combination of scoring too little and conceding too much though is a toxic combination in such a low scoring game.

Three players share the title of top scorer for Harrisburg, each chipping in three goals. Pedro Ribeiro, who will be familiar to MLS watchers, has his in sixteen appearances, as does Ropapa Mensah, while Paul Wilson has needed 24 to get his. Aaron Wheeler, Jake Bond, and Jonathan Mendoza have each contributed two, while a handful of players have singles.

Unbeaten in two, Harrisburg have emerged from a dire run that saw them lose five-straight and go winless through eight; will be looking to continue that strong form heading into this final stretch. They followed up an impressive 2-1 win on the road against Saint Louis FC at the beginning of the month with a midweek 1-1 draw at home against FC Cincinnati.

Mendoza gave the hosts a lead in the 51st minute, but Cincinnati were relentless, Jimmy McLaughlin stealing a share of the points deep in stoppage-time with a 96th minute equalizer.

Though buoyed by the unbeaten run, their form at FNB Field in Harrisburg has been part of their troubles. The City Islanders are winless in six at their home ground, dating back to a mid-July 1-0 win over the Richmond Kickers.

Coach Bill Becher will be hoping, with their next three matches at home, that the side can overcome that difficulty in search of keeping their playoff aspirations alive. A home record of four wins, four losses, and five draws will be pointed to as a reason should they fall short come the end.

Where TFC II will be playing unshackled, the City Islanders will be fighting for their lives.

“We expect a tough team to come out and play hard,” said Jordan McCrary, who has excelled from his right wing-back position the past few months. “At the same time, we've been playing really well; practice has been going well. We've just got to come out, play our style, and come up with the W.”

Said Bent: “They're a physical team, try to play football in the right areas. They've been swapping between 3-4-3, 4-2-3-1, so we've prepared for both.”

“It's about our mentality,” continued Bent. “Can we travel well: this will be a long trip, about nine hours on a bus. Mentally we have to be focused, ready to go.”

With two teams so eager for the result, the match could reprise the entertainment on display in the last meeting, on July 1 at the Ontario Soccer Centre, where seven goals were scored.

Harrisburg took the result 4-3 at the final whistle.

In a back-and-forth opening half, the sides twice exchanged goals within minutes with Ribeiro opening the scoring only for Mitch Taintor to respond. Bond then reinstated Harrisburg's advantage, but Luca Uccello replied.

A Brandon Aubrey own-goal minutes after the restart and a Paul Wilson tally stretched the margin and though Aikim Andrews would pull one back, Toronto could not find another equalizer.

It was a result that stuck in the craw of Bent and his side.

“We finally scored multiple goals, three on the day, unfortunately we gave up four; three from individual errors,” recalled Bent. “We have to make sure we give ourselves the best possible chance to win games, [make] the opposition to earn their goals, as opposed to us giving them to them. We've learned from that situation and give a good performance.”

Harrisburg has bossed the all-time series, winning four to Toronto's one, with a further meeting ending level.

Adding to the fun, it is Star Wars Night and Harrisburg will be wearing some sort of stormtrooper-themed jerseys.

Kickoff is set for 7 pm and can be viewed on YouTube (below) or at, as usual.

Toronto enters the match on the back of a pair of losses, winless in three, stretching back to their last

away match, a dramatic 3-2 win over the Charlotte Independence on August 26.

That was a match that saw them snap a long winless run on their travels and they will be looking to continue that trend despite the home disappointments.

TFC II will be without the services of Jordan Hamilton, who saw red against New York last match, while given the long travel expected and potential first team roles for the likes of Jay Chapman, Tsubasa Endoh, and Ben Spencer in LA, just who will be available for Bent's side remains to be seen.

There were, however, two new names added to the player pool: Rocco Romeo and Daniel Da Silva. Romeo is a centre-back who was inked to a professional deal this week, while Da Silva is in good form, having scored a hat-trick for TFC III last weekend.

Julian Dunn also signed a pro deal that will see him continue to split time between TFC II and TFC III, as did Noble Okello, a rangy midfielder.

Okello is not listed in the match preview, but is on the roster, so may well be available as well – such oversights do occur.

With the season coming to an end, Bent reflected on how the year has gone: “At the beginning of the year, some performances we were playing reasonably well. Second half we've created a ton of more chances every single game.”

The improvement has been marked, and had the team played as they have recently all season, it may have been a very different story.

Though the ills have been common all year long.

“We just haven't been able to execute in the final third, in both boxes,” lamented Bent.

“We're not going to make the playoffs, which is very disappointing. Not just for myself, but the players and upper management as well,” added Bent. “At the end of the day, we have to wait and decide; see what happens moving forward.”

Consistency is key to getting results in soccer, as the first team has amply evidenced. Whether, given their dual-hatted aims, TFC II can manage to find a way to achieve the same remains to be seen.

“It's bittersweet,” said McCrary of the final road trip. “It's a long season, but I like travelling, like the feeling of it: [being] with the guys, [battling] to get the road win. Bittersweet.”

Match Hashtag: #HARvTOR

Club Twitter Handles: @City_Islanders @TorontoFCII