The end of the month appeared to go Hartford Athletic’s way as they kept the win streak going, beating the Philadelphia Union II on Saturday 3-2 before going on the road to Indiana.
This was probably the most interesting match so far, as Philly shocked the Boys in Green with two goals in the first 15 minutes; keep in mind Philly brutally lost 5-1 to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds last Wednesday. The first one came at the fourth minute after some extremely poor ball control from Kevin Politz and a trip from Sam Strong led to Philly forward Yomi Scintu using the opportunity to quickly put the ball in and did just that. About 10 minutes later, the U put another goal in after midfielder Danny Flores whipped the ball into the penalty box and found midfielder Axel Picazo to put the ball in the back of the net.
With the score already 2-0, it seemed as if Hartford were going to struggle to even make the game leveled. Though in the 39th minute, Hartford gradually started to make Philly’s momentum crumble when a lobbed ball from midfielder Danny Barrera went in front of Gabriel Torres and nested the ball in the upper right side of the net. Five minutes later, Hartford tried to have another chance when the ball was crossed in but were quickly denied from Philly’s defense. To their surprise, the “cleared” ball ended up at the feet of midfielder Mads Jørgensen who kicked the ball through Flores’ legs and directly at the U’s goalkeeper who couldn’t deflect the ball out. Just like that, Hartford were leveled with tons of momentum following the end of the first half.
The second half saw Hartford’s miraculous comeback as they tried to push the ball towards Philly’s final third of the field. Barrera quickly received the ball from a contested midfield and passed just as fast to forward Ever Guzmán who shot from the near post and put Hartford in the lead. Philly almost had a good chance to equalize again from a corner kick in the 79th minute but managed to shoot the ball wide.
This match, albeit a great victory for Hartford, was a glimpse to how the following match would go against Indy Eleven where they suffered its first defeat of the season of 4-1.
Much like the Philly game, Indy scored in the fourth minute after exposing the weak points in Hartford’s defense. While pushing up the field, the Boys in Blue began to swap the field by passing the ball, starting with forward Tyler Pasher who found defender Macauley King with plenty of open space for a play. King then crossed the ball in where forward Nick Moon ran in time to head the ball into the goal. Indy had another chance later on in the final minutes of extra time for the first half until goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda made a diving save.
Right off the bat of the second half Hartford equalized when Harry Swartz passed the ball ahead of forward Alex Dixon and utilized the Indy keeper’s positioning to shoot right passed him. While it seemed Hartford could prevent another upset once more things only went south for the team.
In the 51st minute Hartford tried to clear the ball out of Indy’s possession which only ended up giving the Boys in Blue a much greater advantage. Upon Swartz attempting to go in front of Pasher to disrupt his run, midfielder Conor McGlynn slid to contest the play which only ended up bouncing off a downed Swartz and found forward Yeferson Contreras. Quickly responding to the counterattack, Contreras found Pasher in open space and netted the ball right up the middle of the goal.
Indy’s remaining two goals were simply a result of poor defense from Hartford. In the 81st minute defender Karl Oiumette crossed the ball up the right side of the field to midfielder Drew Conner who managed to run past McGlynn and tap the ball towards the far post to mark Indy’s third goal.
As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” and it couldn’t be any more relevant for Indy’s fourth and final goal of the match. About six minutes later, Ouimette was able to do the same exact thing on the right side of the field, this time finding midfielder Matt Watson who was also quick to speed past Hartford’s defense and chip it over Mandanda.
While this was a tough defeat for Hartford, they were also facing a team who were on top of its group, adding Saturday’s game as its fifth win while only losing once. Hartford are in a similar boat: first in its group, but with only three wins and a loss.
Despite Hartford’s win streak ending, fans should acknowledge the many achievements Hartford has already obtained this month. For instance, goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda was named to the USL Championship week four’s team of the week, with midfielders Danny Barrera and Gabriel Torres named the following week. Also, and this one I find more significant, Hartford have won just as many games as they did in its first four months in the league last season. If that doesn’t seem like a major turning point in the club’s performance, I don’t know what can. Sure, the Boys in Green still have a long way to go and have some things to work on, but I must say they are a more enjoyable side to watch compared to last year.
Hartford return home for a rematch against Loudon United at Dillon Stadium on Sunday.