Hartford Athletic will host the New York Red Bulls II today in its third matchup this season. The last time the two faced each other was on Aug. 15, where the Boys in Green held a 2-1 lead after the Baby Bulls scored a goal late into the match.
With the Pittsburgh Riverhounds qualified for the USL Championship playoffs after its 5-0 thrashing against Hartford, Hartford’s only competitor for second place is the Red Bulls II, who are seven points behind.
Hartford will be entering the match in mediocre form. Since its second meet against the Baby Bulls, it has only won once to Loudon United (also tied with them) while losing twice to Pittsburgh. One thing I noticed was that Hartford had a goal differential of +5 after beating the Red Bulls II on Aug. 15; that is now down to -2. Granted, the majority of that can be explained because of Pittsburgh’s dominance this season, but for a team who had a very great start to the season compared to its inaugural season last year, it can be quite worrisome. Hartford does have a bit of an advantage as it will be playing in Dillon Stadium, with a home record is 5-1-1.
As for the Red Bulls II, they’ll enter the match coming off a 6-0 win over Philadelphia Union II. In all fairness, Philly has been pummeled by almost every team in the group, but the Baby Bulls has also been in alright form. Some of the players Hartford should look out for are forward Omar Sowe, who scored a hat trick against Philly, and midfielder Caden Clark, who scored a brace and provided an assist. While they’ve only played one fewer match than Hartford following the Aug. 15 game, they’ve won twice and lost to Pittsburgh during that time. However, their away form hasn’t been the greatest, with a 2-3-0 record. To put it into perspective, their home record is nearly identical (2-4-0 record).
It’s likely that the Red Bulls II will use the 4-2-3-1 formation, so head coach Radhi Jaïdi should try and use a 4-4-2 again. If there’s anything Jaïdi could’ve taken out of the Pittsburgh game is that playing five in the back while only have one forward on top doesn’t really work well. For crying out loud, Alex Dixon, a forward, had to play completely out of position as a defender as he replaced an injured Kevin Politz.
Should Jaïdi use a 4-4-2, I think he should seriously consider putting Mads Jørgensen back in the starting eleven. Jørgensen has always shown to press and try to create plays, as well as contributing his signature long shots every now and then. For the current state of Hartford, he should be brought back in as a replacement for Arthur Rodgers who, in my opinion, hasn’t really performed that well aside from his one goal against Loudon.
All in all, today’s match is a must-win for Hartford. Should they lose, it’ll only bring the Red Bulls II closer to claim the last spot for the league’s playoffs. Given how great of a start Hartford had in the season and how it’s gradually going downhill, they have to prove that they’re not giving up their position in the group and will have to widen the point gap between them and the Baby Bulls.