What’s new in Harrisburg? I sure don’t know. That’s why I went to the source: Chris Bratton covers Penn FC for The Brotherly Game, and he fills us in on everything that’s happened with the City Islanders team in the past month-plus.
For Club and Country: It’s been a little over a month since the last time these teams played. Has there been any major change in Penn FC’s form or the perception around the club in the area?
Chris Bratton: I wouldn’t say there’s been any major changes since we last met. They’re still struggling with a lot of the same issues, primarily goal scoring. They did get the wins over Tampa Bay and Toronto FC II to start off May, which helped them to build some momentum. But then they had a long break from league play, so I worry they might have cooled back off.
FCAC: Have any new players emerged (or have some who were important at the beginning of the year fading back into the woodwork)?
CB: Well Mauro Eustaquio was shaping up to be a solid performer in the midfield this year. But unfortunately he tore his ACL during the Tampa Bay game, so he’s done for the season. Beyond that, I don’t think there’s a single player who I’d point out as really separating himself from the pack so far this season. Raoul Voss has made squad rotation a focus and there’s a lot of different players who’ve played well, but not in a game changing way. Tommy Heinemann is definitely the biggest weapon for us, but if defenses can just focus all their energy on him, they can shut him down.
FCAC: At this point, it seems like Penn has an elite defense and struggling offense – pretty similar to Nashville SC, but worse results in the table – what has gone into the quality on defense, and what do they need to do to improve on the other end of the pitch?
CB: I think Penn FC had played with a strong defensive shape in their earlier games, so that helped their defenders get settled in, but it made scoring tougher. I think the key players on defense have been the goalkeepers Romu Peiser and Sean Lewis. Having a veteran presence like Peiser to run the defense from the back has been huge. And Voss still has the confidence to rotate Lewis in for a few starts so that he’s not stuck on the sidelines all season. Lewis has stepped up when he’s gotten his opportunities. He’s only allowed one goal in three games.
I don’t think there’s one single thing they need to do to improve their offensive output. The opportunities are there, but there’s a lot of cases where the final pass is a little off and the play breaks down. I think the most telling statistic is how few shots they’ve taken this year. It seems like they’re reluctant to let it fly at times, even though they’ve gotten a few nice goals from some long shots. So maybe they just need to loosen up and take some more chances.
But I’m not a coach. For all I know, that’s the exact thing Voss is telling them not to do.
FCAC: Obviously the previous matchup was in Harrisburg, and this one’s in Nashville. How has Penn’s home/road form split been?
FCAC: Well they only have two wins this year and one was at home and one on the road. I think they’re generally a bit better at home, but their real weakness was when they played on the road on short rest. That’s what happened with that 3-0 loss in North Carolina. Luckily for them, that won’t be the case here. They managed two scoreless draws while away at Pittsburgh this year, and I think Pittsburgh shapes up pretty similarly to Nashville. Something like that could come up again Saturday night, because they tend to play more defensively on the road.
FCAC: What’s your predicted lineup for tomorrow evening? Any other specific predictions (including a final score)?
CB: I think I can do a predicted lineup, but I guarantee that it’ll have several things wrong [ed: Same.]
GK Romu Peiser
Pedro Galvao-Harri Hawkins-Kyle Venter-Marco Franco
Miguel Jaime-Dan Metzger
Freddie Opoku-Richard Menjivar-Jerry Ortiz
And as for a final score, I predict a draw just because Penn FC seems to be a draw heavy team this year. But instead of a 0-0, I’m going with a 1-1.