CORONA, Calif. – The Los Angeles Blues had to come from behind to earn a 1-1 tie with the visiting Harrisburg City Islanders Friday night, as they lacked finishing in a strong first half before dropping off steeply after the break. Despite going a man down in the 28th minute, the City Islanders withstood the hosts’ furious attacking efforts and set themselves up for a surprise lead on an Andrew Walker strike early in the second half. The Blues responded with a tally from Josh Tudela just before the hour mark, but Harrisburg was able to come away with a point behind an outstanding defensive effort.
The Blues kept the ball well and looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening stages. In the 6th minute of play, captain Josh Tudela swung in an excellent free-kick that was headed just wide of the far post by Mehrshad Momeni, who showed great determination in crashing the box and beating the Harrisburg defenders to the ball. Ten minutes later, Israel Sesay should have given the home side the lead, as he was released in on goal but chose to use the outside of his left boot for a shot that went well wide of the target.
The Sierra Leonean had another excellent chance to put Los Angeles on the board in the 23rd minute, as he streaked down the right flank on yet another quick breakaway and was found by his strike partner Chukwudi Chijindu’s well threaded through ball. One on one with City Islanders goalkeeper Karry Harrison, Sesay tried to pick out the side-netting with his low effort but only to see the ball go just wide of the far post.
The match became more difficult for the visiting City Islanders just before the half-hour mark, as midfielder Jason Hotchkin was alleged to have punted the ball away in frustration and picked up his second yellow card for an automatic ejection. Shortly after, in the 35th minute, Sesay continued to be a nuisance to the Harrisburg backline, as he broke in one on one on an excellent through ball out of midfield and saw his shot from close range blocked on a last-ditch effort by a City Islanders defender.
The visitors completely turned the game on its head in the 53rd minute. Andrew Walker was released on a beautiful combination play down the right flank and the 21-year-old displayed great finishing skills, as he lobbed the ball over onrushing Blues netminder Oscar Dautt and into the net.
While the goal briefly served to energize the City Islanders, Los Angeles responded in outstanding fashion just six minutes later. With the ball at his feet on the left side of the penalty area, Chijindu centered it to a wide open Tudela, who rifled an unstoppable right-footed shot inside the near post for the equalizer.
The two sides cancelled each other out for the entire remainder of the second period, as the City Islanders did a great job of shutting down the Blues attack despite the man disadvantage. Los Angeles will look to improve on the disappointing result in Sunday’s rematch against Harrisburg at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. PST.