FULLERTON, Calif. – Resting a number of starters ahead of Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup clash with MLS giant Los Angeles Galaxy, the Blues suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of the visiting Harrisburg City Islanders on Sunday evening. As in the first match against Harrisburg on Friday, Los Angeles looked the better of the two sides before conceding a goal on a counter-attack. Forward Sainey Touray gave the City Islanders the lead late in the first half before Andrew Welker doubled the advantage just after the hour mark. Israel Sesay pulled one back in the 78th minute, but it was too little too late for the Blues.
The fans at Fullerton’s Titan Stadium were treated to an entertaining opening quarter-hour, as both teams tried to push for the game’s first goal. Harrisburg came closest in the 9th minute of play, Sainey Touray’s tap-in from an awkward shot attempt by David Schofield being whistled back for offsides.
The Blues very nearly scored on the other end in the 17th minute. Tomislav Colic played a nice ball over the top to the agile Adriano de Lima, who found himself one-on-one with onrushing City Islanders goalkeeper Chase Harrison, only to see his lobbed attempt from the edge of the penalty area land on the roof of the goal.
The technically gifted Brazilian was at the center of the action once again moments later, as he cleverly laid the ball back to his strike partner Colic from deep inside the Harrisburg penalty area. The Serbian hit the pass first-time for a right-footed curling effort that just eluded the upper ninety.
The first period ended in frantic fashion. First the Blues’ Dane Saintus found himself all alone in the penalty area but hesitated just long enough to give Andrew Marshall a chance to recover and tackle the ball away on a last-ditch effort. Then De Lima added to his outstanding performance by rattling the crossbar on a nice layoff by Saintus.
Harrisburg punished the hosts for the missed opportunities on the immediate counter, striker Sainey Touray entering the right side of the penalty area on a wonderful solo run and beautifully placing a shot inside the near post for a 1-0 City Islanders lead. The Blues responded well to the blow, Saintus finding himself wide open in the box once again, but only to badly mishit the ball for a harmless roller straight into the hands of Harrison.
Those in attendance saw an eventless beginning to the second half. The first chance came just before the hour mark, Harrisburg star striker Jose Angulo receiving the ball from Schofield and releasing a hard left-footed shot from the top of the penalty area that whistled just past the left post.
The visitors doubled their advantage in the 64th minute of play. Touray added an assist to his first-half tally, as he took the ball all the way to the touchline before laying it off to Andrew Welker, who cut it back to his right foot and found the net on a deflected shot from inside the area.
Priestley came close to pulling one back for Los Angeles in the 72nd minute, his long-range blast sailing just over the crossbar. Mere moments later, second-half substitute Cesar Rivera missed a golden opportunity for the Blues, as he ran onto a well-threaded through-ball and hit the outside of the near post from less than ten yards out.
Harrisburg could have extended its lead in the 78th minute of play, Joseph Noone switching the ball to Schofield, who hit a wonderful dipping shot form the left edge of the penalty area that forced goalkeeper Oscar Dautt to tip it over in spectacular fashion. The save allowed the Blues to get back into the game four minutes later. Priestley found a streaking Sesay in the penalty area and the Sierra Leonean did a great job of controlling the ball and slotting it inside the near post to cut the deficit in half.
Blues forward Rivera dug an even deeper hole for his side two minutes from full time, as he was shown a straight red card for dissent that reduced the hosts to ten men. While Los Angeles continued to press for a late equalizer, their attacking efforts opened up the field for City Islanders counter-attacks. The visitors should have put the game out of reach in stoppage time, Morgan Langley and Jordan Seabrook shooting wide left from close range on two separate occasions.
The Blues hope to bounce back from the defeat with a major upset in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup, as they take on the Los Angeles Galaxy this coming Tuesday, June 28, at Fullerton’s Titan Stadium. Kickoff is at 7.30 p.m. PST. Meanwhile, the City Islanders look to add to their recent success when they take on the visiting Charlotte Eagles on July 2.