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US Open Cup Stories: Harrisburg

The Red Bulls are 0 for 2 against the Pennsylvania Capital City

Seattle Sounders FC v Sporting Kansas City
Two exciting games against the City Islanders of the USL
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Back with another article discussing the history of this club as the MetroStars or the New York Red Bulls as they participate in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, this time around I discuss the two games the Red Bulls played as they traveled to Central Pennsylvania as they faced the Harrisburg City Islanders.

Now most of the games I have watched this club play in the Open Cup have been within the NYC Tri-State area either at Rutgers University on Yurcak Field, Mitchell Athletic Complex out in Uniondale, Long Island near the border of Hempstead near Hofstra or near the Nassau Coliseum.

Of recent years I have seen all of the home ties at Red Bull Arena since the qualifiers in 2010 and their first tournament proper match in 2011 against the former FC New York side of the USL. But this is the only place I have visited twice when the Red Bulls were on the road in this competition.

Now I have to say that the two times I have visited this city, it has been a wonderful place to go and the trip riding on Amtrak from Newark Penn Station to the Harrisburg Transportation Center was a lot of fun as I have made friends and colleagues with the Harrisburg soccer media and the Harrisburg Soccer Community.

But while that was a lot of fun to discuss the capital of the State of Pennsylvania, it wasn’t fun to see the Red Bulls fall twice to the City Islanders on their quest to return to the US Open Cup Final.

After going thru three US Open Cup Qualifiers to get into the Third Round Proper of the 2010 season the Red Bulls traveled to Harrisburg to face their first opponent from Pennsylvania. This was a match that had some great action and moments where both sides could’ve converted a chance, but nothing was going in.

After ninety minutes of regulation had come and gone it was straight to extra time where both sides traded chances to convert, nothing came and it felt like this match was going into the penalty kick shootout.

But those plans were dashed as Goalkeeper Greg Sutton distributed the ball back into play and all of a sudden a quick steal that came out of nowhere just gave the City Islanders a chance to knock off the Red Bulls.

Jason Pelletier intercepted the ball and a quick pass to Geoff Bloes running towards goal, Bloes would find Dominic Oppong in the 117th minute and converted it past Sutton for the late lead.

With only three minutes of extra time remaining and not enough stoppage time to pull back an equalizer, the Islanders advanced to the Quarterfinals and faced DC United. The second meeting was in 2012 and back to Harrisburg as these sides would tango again with each other.

After defeating the Charleston Battery in the third round, the second match was in the fourth round and it started early against an old foe in Sainey Touray as he scored early in the 13th minute. After halftime was over the Red Bulls wanted to equalize as Connor Lade who earned his first Open Cup goal got his second in the 58th minute.

Once again after ninety minutes ended it was back into extra time and once again it was Touray who converted his second of the match in the 94th minute, but sadly for the Red Bulls they had a golden chance to earn a penalty, but referee Robert Sibiga ignored it.

As this match was video streamed on the web and watching the replay under the tent next to the press box, a City Islanders defender leapt in the air and intentionally handled the ball with his left hand high in the air. Protests for a spot kick were ignored.

Then current NY Cosmos attacker Lucky Mkosana converted the final nail in the coffin at the same minute Oppong did in 2010 when he scored his goal in the 117th minute, after the match Hans Backe refused to talk to me and one other as he was very upset that the hand ball wasn’t called.

If you count all the matches against the three Pennsylvanian sides that perform in MLS, USL & PDL against the Philadelphia Union, City Islanders and Reading United the record is two wins, three losses and two draws as the Red Bulls split two Penalty kick shootouts with the Union.

So hopefully the Red Bulls can either travel back to Harrisburg, or maybe the City Islanders can make a trip to Red Bull Arena as I know in the back of some of the supporters minds, they want some revenge against that USL Side.