From the Capitol: Gabriel Torres becomes Hartford’s hero in Loudon clash

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Hartford Athletic met Loudon United for the final time on Saturday where the Boys in Green looked to return to winning ways in Dillon Stadium. Despite a rocky start in the opening minutes, Hartford managed to come out on top, winning 2-1. 

Hartford changed a couple of things ahead of Saturday’s clash. One notable change was the return of Cheno Guzmán after being out for a couple matches. Second was the formation, as head coach Radhi Jaïdi decided on a 4-4-2 form instead of his usual 3-5-2. 

With a record of 2-0-1 against Loudon, Hartford were eager to get a good result. To their surprise however, things started to go a bit downhill when Arthur Rogers went down from a collision in the opening seconds of the match. Despite coming back on the field a couple minutes later, Hartford’s defense let its guard down and conceded a goal in the fourth minute. Keeper Parfait Mandanda kicked the ball to the opposite end of the field, but couldn’t target any of his players and ended up giving the ball away. Defender Allexon Saravia started off Loudon’s counterattack as he lobbed the ball to midfielder Christian Sorto. To surprise Mandanda, Sorto passed to the left to Josh Fawole who netted the ball into the bottom of the goal. 

Hartford tried to respond with a great chance in the 11th minute. Captain Danny Barrera received the ball from Guzmán and crossed up the field to Alex Dixon. Already marked and not able to do much, Dixon passed the ball outward to Guzmán who was quickly marked by two Loudon defenders. Guzmán passed to Tyreke Johnson who finally managed to get a shot after a bit of footwork past the defenders, but it was deflected off Loudon keeper Simon Lefebvre and converted into a corner kick. 

Hartford had another good chance to try to level the match only a couple minutes later. Pressing the Loudon defense, Guzmán passed to Dixon as the two ran up the field. Not able to do much, Dixon passed to Nicky Downs who simply passed back and crossed the ball to Guzmán who was waiting by the far post. Guzmán tried to quickly smash the ball in, but the Loudon keeper was quicker and deflected the ball. Barrera attempted to take a shot off the deflection, but it went wide. 

The third time was the charm as Harford’s third chance on goal was successful and leveled the score. Arthur Rogers passed the ball to Gabriel Torres who attempted to make a run, but was quickly marked. Torres passed back to Rogers who took a couple steps forward and launched the ball toward the left side of Loudon’s goal. The Loudon keeper couldn’t deflect the ball, and it was game on. 

Chances from Loudon in the remainder of the first half should’ve seen the DC United-owned team score two more times, but crosses from Fawole couldn’t find anyone to finish the play and a strike from Alioune Ndour grazed the outside of Hartford’s net. Hartford also saw a couple more shots on target from Torres and Barrera, but they were saved by the keeper and went wide respectively. 

In the opening minutes of the second half, Guzmán almost put Hartford in the lead. Barrera lobbed the ball up the field to Guzmán with defenders Saravia and Timothy Mehl around him, but Saravia tried to head the ball out while colliding with his keeper. With an empty net, Guzmán went for the easy shot, but was blocked at the last second by defender Adam Lundegard. 

Aside from Guzmán’s chance, the second half remained fairly even on both sides until the 76th minute. With a throw-in from Alex Lara a minute earlier, Barrera passed the ball back to Lara, who crossed it into the penalty area where Torres struck the ball off the volley and into the net, taking a 2-1 lead. Harford had another good chance to score a few minutes later when a free kick was taken by Markus Naglestad, but the ball was off by a few feet. 

Hartford almost increased their lead after a Naglestad free kick went straight to the keeper, but couldn’t contain it. The ball fell to the feet of Guzmán, who struck from inches away, but the referee ruled the goal out due to Barrera unfairly knocking the ball out of the Loudon keeper’s hands. 

Hartford’s next match will be on the road Saturday where they will face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds for the second time this season. Looking ahead at the schedule, Hartford’s second to last home match will be on Sept. 16 against the New York Red Bulls II. 

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