Photo courtesy Harrisburg City Islanders
With changes at the top the Harrisburg City Islanders ushered in a new era for the club, and hopes were high heading into the 2017 USL Season. Unfortunately for the City Islanders the consistency of play on the field couldn’t quite live up to expectations despite there being numerous bright moments from the club's talented newcomers as they missed the postseason for a third consecutive season.
With 18 players joining the team in 2017, three on loan from Inter Allies FC in Ghana, it was a completely new lineup for the City Islanders which struggled to click, winning just two of the club's opening 13 matches of the regular season. A strong finish led by Ghana international call-up Abass Mohammed and Ropapa Mensah came up just short for the City Islanders, but led to plenty of promise ahead of their 2018 season as the club enters a new era as Penn FC, with a key new partnership with youth powerhouse Rush Soccer coming online in the new year as well.
Record: 10-15-7, 37pts
Place: 11th in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 28
Goals Against: 47
USL Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
2017 leaders: Ropapa Mensah (7 goals), Pedro Ribeiro, Jonathan Mendoza (4 assists), Brandon Miller (71 saves)
The club's first full season at FNB Field helped build a consistent fan base, which saw the club's average attendance rise by almost 1,000 from the year prior. That provided a big boost for the Harrisburg City Islanders, as did the establishment of the partnership with fellow Capelli Sport club Inter Allies FC which brought leading goal scorer Ropapa Mensah to Harrisburg from the Ghanaian club. The bright moments shown by the 20-year-old, in addition to a good season for fellow Ghanaian Abass Mohammed, should provide optimism for the new year.
A slow start to the season dug the City Islanders into a tough spot early, even with victories on the road against the likes of the New York Red Bulls II showing what the club could be capable of. The club had some excellent spells, including an impressive home victory against eventual USL Cup-winner Louisville City FC, but the hole that they dug meant a five-game undefeated streak late in the season wasn't enough to push into contention for the USL Cup Playoffs.
Ropapa Mensah's game-winning goal against the Richmond Kickers at FNB Field saw the talented young striker stretch to control the ball and then turn his defender, opening up the space to curl the ball around the defense and out of reach of the goalkeeper for a tremendous individual finish.
Harrisburg goalkeeper Sean Lewis' reflex were on full display in the City Islanders' road victory against Saint Louis FC, as the hosts worked the ball around well from a set piece before a redirected shot that saw Lewis get down well, and then recover to smother Tony Walls' effort on the rebound.