The Pittsburgh Riverhounds and City Islanders FC battled to a 1-1 draw at FNB Field in Harrisburg on Saturday, with the City Islanders taking the Keystone Derby Cup with a 3-2 aggregate goals advantage in three games played between the in-state rivals.
“We are disappointed not to bring the cup back home to Pittsburgh. I understand how important it is to the fans, to the City, and to the players,” said Dave Brandt, Riverhounds head coach.
“The players are decimated. It feels like a loss. That being said, it was a quality football game out there tonight.”
Here’s coach Brandt’s full interview with me after the game.
“We came down there with one goal. We know it hasn’t been the greatest season. We thought we could at least finish on a high, and keep this cup. Because it means so much to the fans,” said Kevin Kerr, team captain who has been part of the Keystone Derby series since 2013.
“They (Steel Army) were awesome all night long. They deserved it, they absolutely deserved it. It is a bit of a disappointment that we couldn’t get the job done.”
After a scoreless first half, the intensity turned up another notch as both teams came out in the final 45 minutes pushing for the first goal.
Playing with a sense of urgency, being sharp in possession and outshooting their rivals in the first half 4-2, including a pair of quality chances by the Hounds top goal scorer Corey Hertzog, the Hounds headed to the second half with lots of confidence.
“All during the first half, I thought that [Harrisburg] clammed up. Creating chances, and giving away very few chances. We came in during half time relatively pleased,” said Kerr.
“We knew we needed two goals. Time was ticking. We went into this thinking “Let’s us at least this game.” Get the three points, and have all the fans come down onto the field. It’s a tough one. The performance was there.”
And despite some early second half chances for the Hounds, the City Islanders would strike first.
In the 65th minute, the City Islanders winger Cordel Benbow found himself pinned into the corner of the left side by Hounds outside back Mike Green.
Benbow, who has been a past nemisis for the Hounds, made a great individual effort to break the stalemate.
Benbow made a terrific move going away from the line, then cut back inside to nutmeg the ball thru Green’s legs, then moved up the end line to deliver a pinpoint chip to the middle of the goal box that connected with forward Craig Foster.
Foster header was clinical, giving Harrisburg the 1-0 lead in the game, and at that point, a 3-1 edge in the series.
The Hounds didn’t quit.
With dozens of their loyal supporters group, The Steel Army, in the far end of the stadium urging them on, they continued to press forward, and capitalized on a set piece opportunity only minutes later.
In the 70th minute, Danny Earls delivered a free kick in front of City Islanders keeper Keasel Brooke. As Brooke attempted to play the ball, Sergio Campbell beat him to it to redirect it in to tie the game.
With momentum of the match swung back in their direction, the Hounds needed one more goal to bring the Keystone Derby to a dead heat for the season.
As the intensity pick up, the hard nosed Irishman, Earls, who’s been an integral part of this rivalry for the past three years, committed a hard foul at midfield in the 75th minute.
Immediately, City Islanders players took exception to Earls’ aggressive play. Both teams started pushing and shoving, and Earls was in the middle of the scrum. Referee Paul Ciaramitaro didn’t waste any time, even as the teams were still in bit of a scrum, pulling out red card, sending off Earls.
After making a few substitutions, playing down a man, the Hounds kept pressing for the go-ahead goal, and the equalizer in the Derby.
Harrisburg, trailing the last playoff spot in USL Eastern Conference standings by seven points, were not also content to settle for the tie, trying to get the win — playing aggressively in every possession and remaining set pieces.
Benbow had a good chance on the outside — blowing past Green to get room to shoot, but missed right in the 85th minute.
Cristian Martinez and newcomer, and this season’s PDL MVP Chevaughn Walsh added life to the Hounds attack.
In the 87th minute, Martinez broke broke thru on the right side past Liam Doyle, to draw a foul, and an advantage as he maintained possession heading toward the box, and was pulled down again.
Ciaramitaro awarded the Hounds a free kick, and booked Doyle, but spotted the ball where the initial infraction took place about 40 yards from goal.
Despite valiant late efforts, neither team could pull ahead, but the City Islanders (8-14-4, 28 points) made sure that the Hounds (5-16-4, 19 points) and their fans would leave this year’s trip to State capital with nothing to bring back except the bitter sting of defeat.
But in talking with Kerr after the game, he felt that the team really pulled together, and put in an effort that would make Pittsburgh soccer fans proud to support the team.
“We know what it is about. We know that we are not going to make playoffs this year. Every game we go out wanting to prove something to ourselves, and we also want to give back to the fans that still stand by us. They are the ones that came down tonight. You could just see it on the field. During my time in football, you are going to have a good season, and you are going to have a bad season. But the one thing as a team that you never want to be called out on, is your effort,” said Kerr.
“Maybe we have this year, maybe we have deservedly. It is something they we desperately wanted to put right, and we wanted to put that right tonight. We really want to finish this season on a high, and try to carry that through to next year.”
Riverhounds – Zack Steffen – Marshall Hollingsworth, Willie Hunt, Sergio Campbell, Mike Green – Danny Earls, Lebo Moloto (Stephen Okai 89′), Kevin Kerr, Drew Russell (Cristian Martinez 59′) – Corey Hertzog – Nick Thompson (Chevaughn Walsh 66′)
Subs not used: Hunter Gilstrap, Zak Boggs, Jack Thompson, Ryan Adeleye
Harrisburg City Islanders – Keasel Broome – James Thomas, Liam Doyle, Dante Leverock, Shawn McLaws – Cardel Benbow, Bobby Warshaw, Dabo Mouhamed (Brett Jankouskas 86′), Matthew Bolduc (Cameron Vickers 68′), Jose Barril – Craig Foster (Garret Pettis 80′)
Subs not used: Nick Noble, Shane Johnson, Joshua Hughes, Paul Wilson
HAR – Craig Foster 65′ (Cardel Benbow)
PGH – Sergio Campbell 70′ (Danny Earls)
PGH – Danny Earls 74′ (red card)
HAR – Liam Doyle 80′ (caution)
PGH – Chevaughn Walsh 85′ (caution)