Match Preview: 6.22.2012 vs. Harrisburg City Islanders
Championship Game rematch on tap for FridayORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City Soccer Club meets the Harrisburg City Islanders for the first time since last season’s championship game on Friday, June 22, at the Citrus Bowl. The Lions look to repeat their success against the City Islanders and stretch their current winning streak to three with a victory. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The story of Orlando City’s last meeting with Harrisburg is well known at this point. Devorn Jorsling converted his penalty kick to win the shootout and give the Lions a championship in the franchise’s first season. Since that point, Orlando has maintained their winning ways. Sitting at 9-1-2, the Lions have the best record in USL PRO at the halfway point of the season, and are actually ahead of where they were at midseason in 2011.
Harrisburg has had an up-and-down season in 2012. At 4-2-4, the City Islanders sit just outside of the playoffs in seventh. Their middling performance in league play is buoyed by their impressive run in the US Open Cup. Harrisburg is one of three USL PRO clubs still alive in the nation’s oldest soccer competition. They’ve defeated two MLS clubs on the road to the quarterfinals, and have done so in dramatic fashion. Next up for Harrisburg is a clash with the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday. The question remains whether or not Harrisburg will be focused more on the Lions, or their impeding quarterfinals match.
The City Islanders’ penchant for drama is something with which Orlando City is well acquainted. The 2011 Championship Game did not see a goal until the 89th minute, but then saw three more before the match was forced to penalty kicks. With the Orlando City defense playing so well lately (just 10 goals allowed this season), and the offense scoring more goals than any other team in USL PRO (22), the Lions hope the match will be well out of reach by the time Harrisburg begins their trademarked late push.
The Orlando offense looks to be bolstered this week by the return of Max Griffin. Griffin had been on strong former before a hamstring injury forced him to miss the last four league matches. The resurgence of Matt Luzunaris also adds to the City attack.
Orlando City has also added a new player to the roster. U23s player Adama Mbengue has joined the pro club. Pending USSF approval, he will be available to play on Friday. The Senegalese international spent the entire preseason with the pro side, and impressed many with his play during the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
The Lion defense will also get a boost this week. 2011 Defender of the Year Rob Valentino returned to training this week, and is expected to be available. Fortunately for Orlando, he may not be needed. In the last two weeks, Orlando City’s two other center backs - Kyle Davies and Kieron Bernard - were named to the USL PRO Team of the Week.
One player missing from the City line-up this week is midfield stalwart James O’Connor. The Irishman is in Europe to finalize his UEFA Pro Coaching License. The Lions will also be without Jean Alexandre. His loan expired, forcing Alexandre to return to San Jose. Orlando City is in conversations with San Jose on bringing Alexandre back for another loan later in the season.
Player to Watch - Matt Luzunaris:
Luzunaris has scored in three of his last four appearances for Orlando City in all competitions. Unfortunately for Matt, there was a large gap between appearances three and four. The striker fell ill just before the trip to Kansas City, forcing him to miss the next three matches. Matt returned to the line-up last week and picked up right where he left off. His break-dance celebration after his late goal against Antigua was even featured on ESPN’s SportsNation. Look for Luzunaris to continue his resurgence against Harrisburg.
Miguel Gallardo, Sean Kelley, Wes Allen, Kieron Bernard, Luke Boden, Justin Clark, Kyle Davies, Jerome Mechack, Erik Ustruck, Rob Valentino, Charlie Campbell, Ian Fuller, Adama Mbengue, Kevin Molino, Anthony Pulis, John Rooney, Jamie Watson, Dennis Chin, Max Griffin, Matt Luzunaris