Institute striker Michael Harris feels he's finding his rhythm once again after MLS experience
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The 20-year-old, who started out with Derry City before heading Stateside, scored twice in last week’s victory over Ballyclare Comrades as Kevin Deery’s men continued their impressive start to the season.
Harris was one of many exciting young players recruited by Deery during the summer and they’ve gone from finishing 11th last term to sitting third this time around, trailing leaders Portadown by only three points.
Harris was in the starting line-up as ‘Stute had the chance to join Dundela on the summit at the weekend but with the game against the East Belfast men tied at 1-1 the match was abandoned due to a floodlight failure.
Former Finn Harps forward Harris will likely have a big role to play as Institute look to keep their title challenge on track and after scoring four in his last five, he feels things are starting to click.
"I was delighted to score two, but I was more happy for the team because we're doing so well so that helped us keep the momentum going,” he said. “Moments like that the whole team are buzzing and it keeps the good streak going which is the main thing. I'm definitely coming into it now. I'm getting back into the rhythm now.
"Kevin, Mo (Mahon, assistant manager) and the backroom staff are incredible and they definitely bring the best out of me.
"I've loved every minute of it - it has been class so far."
Harris already knew Deery and Mahon from his time in Derry City’s ranks so when it came to looking for a new club, there was one obvious choice.
"I've known Kevin and Mo for years,” he added. “Mo coached me at underage level at Derry and when Kevin was there he had me too, so it was a no-brainer to move to Institute.
"Kevin is brilliant. He knows his stuff. The whole staff fits perfectly together and they all work so well with each other."
It was Harris’ time in America that helped further shape him as both a player and person as he adjusted to life as a teenager over 4,000 miles away from home.
He played eight times for Coloradio Rapids 2 in MLS Next Pro after joining in March 2022 and feels the experience has massively benefitted him.
"It was a great experience,” he said. “I loved it over there.
"It matured me as a player and footballer being away from home. It has definitely helped me.
"You have to adapt to different styles of play. They didn't take up the option on my contract so I came home.
"I had a few offers over there but I decided to come home and that's when I was chatting to Dave (Rogers) at Finn Harps.
"Going into any new environment as a teenager you have to mature very quickly."
Harris’ full focus is now on helping Institute maintain their splendid form ahead of what will be a testing period with seven Championship fixtures to be played before 2023 ends, but the attacker says nobody is getting carried away.
"We're taking each match as it comes and it feels like we're bonding more as a team with every match and it's a great group of lads there,” he added. "We feel like we're a good side.
"I felt we could give anybody a match heading into the season.
"We are getting more experienced with every game."