Hartford Athletic Preview: The only way is up

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Hartford Athletic will face the Philadelphia Union II today for the final time this season. The last time both sides met, Hartford took the lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but a 76th minute goal from Union II’s Jack McGlynn saw both teams take a point out of Dillon Stadium. 

After securing three points from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, Hartford has a major advantage to finish the regular season on top of Group F. The ‘Hounds only has one more game, against the New York Red Bulls, while Hartford has two including today’s match. Pittsburgh will probably be the favorite to win its match and finish the regular season with 34 points, but is this possible? I mean, Pittsburgh, the strongest team in the group, fell to Hartford on Saturday – the only other team in the group to beat the ‘Hounds besides Red Bulls II early in the season, but I digress. 

Regardless of the outcome of Pittsburgh’s final game, Hartford needs to win its final two matches of the regular season. Doing so could see Radhi Jaïdi’s team place at least one point above the ‘Hounds, as well as guaranteeing themselves to host the first round of the USL Championship playoffs. 

Looking at the hosts, Union II doesn’t really have much to play for besides pride. When Hartford traveled to Subaru Park, Alex Dixon scored a brace with an own goal off the U’s Jamoi Topey. On the defensive side, Philly was pretty weak, and given its poor home record of 2-4-1, viewers will most likely see a similar situation. It will be entering the match coming off a 4-5 defeat against the Red Bulls II; a close game that may seem somewhat promising heading into today’s clash, but there are a couple things to consider. First, Philly conceded two goals early in the match; similar to when it hosted Hartford. Second, the Baby Bulls went down a player about halfway through the first half, yet Philly couldn’t use that to its advantage to figure out a way to come out on top or even level the game. To me, that’s a bit worrisome for Union II from an attacking perspective, but since it was able to make a small comeback in the second half, I’ll kind of let it slide. 

As for Hartford, I don’t really have much to say about it as it has played very well this season other than needing to be the dominant side this game. The last time it went to Subaru Park, it just seemed like Hartford was getting very fortunate with its plays because of Philly’s poor defense. Another important thing to note is that Parfait Mandanda will not be the starting keeper for today’s match as he was issued a red card at Pittsburgh for poor conduct. Instead, Mike Novotny will take his spot as he did in Saturday’s game. 

 I believe that beating Pittsburgh over the weekend will certainly give them a huge energy boost to play well these final two matches. But as I’ve been saying in the past few previews for the Connecticut team, they shouldn’t let a confidence boost get the best of them; as I think it kind of did in their final home match of the regular season. Quoting a line from my favorite movie franchise, “Your overconfidence is your weakness.” 

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