Sunday, August 19, 2012
FULLERTON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Blues did everything but score on Sunday night, as they outplayed the visiting Harrisburg City Islanders throughout 90 minutes and created numerous quality chances, only to concede against the run of play on a second-half tally by substitute Yann Ekra and fall 1-0 in their final USL PRO match of 2012. The hosts, who outshot Harrisburg 14-3 on the night, faced an uphill climb in the closing stages, having lost attacker Maykel Galindo to a straight red card.
The win earned the City Islanders the final berth in the 2012 USL PRO Playoffs.
The visitors from Pennsylvania had the first promising look of the contest in the fourth minute, as Jason Pelletier swung in a corner kick from the left and Greg Jordan rose highest to head the ball just over the crossbar. The Blues responded just two minutes later with a quality chance of their own, Bryan Burke streaking down the center and picking out Brian Farber on the right side of the penalty area. The former Portland Timber did well to cut back to his left and was unfortunate to see his powerful strike blocked by a City Islanders defender.
Head Coach Charlie Naimo’s men had another dangerous opportunity shortly after, as Farber found Israel Sesay in the attacking third and the 21-year-old released Galindo on the left. The speedy Cuban whipped in a left-footed cross and Burke came within inches of making clean contact at the doorstep.
Just before the quarter-hour mark, Burke was at the heart of the action again, as he received the ball at the top of the box and laid it off to Farber on the right side of the area. The Idaho native nicely cut to his right but saw his thunderous effort blocked on a last-ditch sliding effort by a Harrisburg defender.
After an uneventful stretch in the match, the Blues also had the final chance of the opening period, Galindo swinging the ball in on a 35th minute corner from the right and goalkeeper Nick Noble failing to punch clear. Burke nearly took advantage of the misplay at the far post, as his powerful volley whistled just wide of the left upright.
The Blues continued to pressure after the break, as Sesay released Burke down the right flank and the 23-year-old sprinted all the way to the byline before sending a dangerous centering ball into the penalty area, where it was bravely punched clear by a flying Noble. The goalkeeper’s heroics prevented an easy tap-in for striker Max Griffin, who was ready to pounce at the edge of the six-yard box.
The continuing pressure by the hosts nearly paid off three minutes from the hour-mark, a streaking Sesay taking the ball to the byline and beautifully crossing to Burke at the far post. The California native made full contact on the volley and was unlucky to be denied by McLaughlin’s goal-line clearance. Mere moments later, Burke came close again, as he worked his way past several defenders and into the box on the right before releasing a right-footed blast that forced a diving stop from Noble.
The Blues would be punished for the missed opportunities in the 66th minute on a Harrisburg goal that completely turned the game on its head. Lucky Mkosana single-handedly beat several opposition players on the left side of the box and beautifully laid the ball off to a wide-open Ekra in the center, the substitute’s simple tap-in giving the visitors what would prove to be the game-winner.
The tally served as a gut-punch to the Blues, who were unable to create any more quality chances for the remainder of the match and dug an even deeper hole for themselves in the 81st minute, captain Galindo picking up a straight red card following a confrontation in midfield.
The crucial win earns the Harrisburg City Islanders a road clash with the Charleston Battery in the USL PRO playoffs. Meanwhile, the Blues look to play several high-profile exhibition matches during the offseason, with their minds set firmly on taking home the league crown in 2013.