Photo courtesy of Harrisburg City Islanders
HARRISBURG, Pa. – For two clubs sitting under the important eighth-place cutoff point for the USL Playoffs, a victory on Tuesday was a must. Ultimately, the Harrisburg City Islanders and Bethlehem Steel FC settled for a 2-2 draw at FNB Field as both teams’ postseason hopes took a bit of a hit. Craig Foster tallied twice for Harrisburg with a goal in each half, including a clutch 81st-minute equalizer. Bethlehem missed out on an opportunity to hold onto a lead as it rallied from being down a goal. Eric Ayuk scored in first-half stoppage time and James Chambers tallied Bethlehem’s other goal in the 49th minute on a free kick. Harrisburg is now 7-14-6 (27 points) overall and 3-7-4 at home. The City Islanders haven’t been able to do much at home as evidenced by their eight-game winless streak (0-5-3). Bethlehem moves to 6-11-9 (27 points) overall and 2-7-5 on the road. Bethlehem did snap a five-game road losing streak, but the expansion side is still 0-5-3 in its past eight road games. Harrisburg won the season series with a 2-0-1 record against Bethlehem.
43’ – HAR – Craig Foster (Shawn McLaws)
45’+ – BST – Eric Ayuk (Ryan Richter)
49’ – BST – James Chambers
81’ – HAR – Craig Foster (Paul Wilson)
Three Things That Mattered:
1. For nearly the entire first half, neither side could get much going in the offensive third, so much so that even the Force – it was Star Wars Night at FNB Field – would have been impervious to bucking that trend. But everything changed in the closing minutes before halftime, with Harrisburg’s Craig Foster finding his way onto the score sheet. Shawn McLaws played a deep ball that dropped over a pair of Bethlehem defenders and connected with the speedy Foster who got a step on everyone. He fired to the far right of the frame in the 43rd minute as the City Islanders took the 1-0 lead. The big tally for Foster came in the 83rd minute, when Bethlehem was on the verge of taking three road points after back-to-back goals. Foster mustered a late equalizer, slotting the ball in between Steel goalkeeper Matt Jones’ legs to tie the score at 2-2 in the final moments. Foster now has five goals on the season.
2. Steel FC’s response was strong during the close of the first half and the beginning of the second. Bethlehem gained the momentum in first-half stoppage time, with Ryan Richter attacking from the right side, then astutely cutting back to his left foot to elude Harrisburg’s James Thomas. Richter’s cross was right on the money to Eric Ayuk, who rose for the header and drove it into the left of the frame to tie the score at 1-1 in the closing moments of the half. Ayuk has three tallies on the season.
3. With the score tied at 1-1 in the opening minutes of the second half, Bethlehem earned a free kick in a dangerous position about 22 yards out. James Chambers drove a shot to the right of Harrisburg’s wall in the 49th minute, and initially it appeared that City Islanders goalkeeper Keasel Broome was positioned well enough to make a stop. However, Broome appeared to be crossed over to some extent as the shot was driven to his left and into the back of the net for a 2-1 Steel FC advantage. It was Chambers’ second goal of the season, and for a while it appeared to be the difference until Foster’s late heroics to help the host side split the points.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Craig Foster, Harrisburg City Islanders – Foster recorded a brace, including an equalizer during the final 10 minutes when it was looking like Bethlehem was on its way to a road victory.
Harrisburg City Islanders vs. New York Red Bulls II – Sept. 7, 4 p.m. ET, Millersville University
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. New York Red Bulls II – Sept. 4, 3 p.m. ET, Goodman Stadium