Photo courtesy Harrisburg City Islanders
After four consecutive seasons reaching the postseason, and twice reaching the USL Cup Final, the Harrisburg City Islanders came up just short of a postseason berth for a second consecutive season in 2016 as the consistency it needed deserted the side for much of the middle third of the regular season.
Sitting at 4-5-1 through the sides first 10 games, the City Islanders then went on a nine-game winless streak that saw the side be outscored 20-7 as it slipped out of playoff contention. The side rallied, going 4-2-5 to close out the season, but it wasn’t enough to earn a trip back to the playoffs even with the travails of Orlando and Wilmington down the stretch.
Record: 8-15-17, 31pts
Place: 10th in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 37
Goals Against: 54
USL Cup Playoffs: N/A
2016 leaders: Craig Foster (8 goals), Jose Barril (7 assists), Nick Noble (46 saves)
There was a pretty simple denominator for the City Islanders’ success this season: Did the team open the scoring? In all eight of Harrisburg’s wins, it also scored the opening goal, as players like Jose Barril, Craig Foster and Paul Wilson were then able to use the counter-attack to great effect. Barill in particular, in his third season with the club, continued to show great creativity to lead the side with seven assists, and also notch six goals to earn USL All-League Second Team honors.
On the flipside, when the City Islanders fell behind, it was usually cause for concern. Harrisburg was outscored 32-19 in the second halves of games in the regular season, compared to 22-18 in the first half, and even in instances where the side was able to mount a comeback, a letdown of the kind suffered in a 3-2 loss to Louisville on April 22 would arrive. Harrisburg took almost as many shots (287-297), and shots on goal (133-135), as its opponents, but a combined .603 save percentage from Nick Noble and Keasel Broome – more than .100 lower than their opponents – hurt a lot.
Bobby Warshaw’s return to Pennsylvania saw the veteran log the second-most minutes for the City Islanders in 2016, and included this blistering volleyed finish against Wilmington.
Jose Barril’s Olimpico against Toronto FC II was nominated as a Goal of the Month, as the Spaniard’s placed his corner kick perfectly into the far side-netting.
Nick Noble didn’t have a vintage year by his usual high standards, but saves like this against the Charlotte Independence were a reminder of how good he can be.
Keasel Broome made 13 appearances for the City Islanders in his first season with the club, and made a number of good stops, including this against Louisville, one of five on the night that helped earn a 1-1 draw.
“Not that one player defines your team, but [Aaron Wheeler] was a player that we were counting on and I think we were starting to come around. We were starting to play as a team, he was starting to score goals. It just seemed like it took us a while to gather ourselves after that happened, and by the time we did, we were in a pretty big hole. Fortunately, we kept working hard at practice and fighting. One thing you can say about our group is that we never gave up.” – City Islanders Head Coach Bill Becher on the side’s midseason struggles