Despite a strong effort Saturday, Hartford Athletic ended their three-in-a-row home game run with a 2-0 loss against El Paso Locomotive FC.
El Paso made its first-ever trip to Hartford in club history, they were welcomed by a strong offense from the home side in the opening minutes. This was seen through the first breath of the game as Hartford’s Elvis Amoh attempted a shot near the penalty area but was miss-kicked. Another chance from Amoh came through a shot, however, it went over the crossbar. Other opportunities came for Hartford in the minutes ahead when Hartford’s Danny Barrera made important passes and dribbles to the center of the box, with all falling short of a successful attacking effort. The beginning of the first half saw Hartford come out strong, but at times too strong when Hartford’s Juan Pablo Torres was shown a yellow card just 10 minutes into the game.
After a dominant start for the Athletic, El Paso soon gained control of the ball and they did not waste any time converting their attacks for a 14th-minute goal, which was scored by Josué Gómez. This play shows the improvement Hartford must make concerning their defense. As seen in Hartford’s previous performances, it does not take a lot for their defense to be quickly picked apart. After the goal, Hartford seemed to step up and go back to pressuring El Paso’s defense, their best attempt coming on a shot from Hartford’s Prince Saydee, which was deflected by El Paso’s goalkeeper Benny Díaz. The rest of the first half was even as both teams continued to push for a goal.
Similar to the first half, Hartford began pressing El Paso’s defense early on in the second half. Their closest attempt came in the 47th minute through Barerras’s shot, but he overshot the target. The team seemed desperate for an equalizer but once again kept falling short. The game started turning further towards El Paso’s favor after they were awarded a free kick, which was then converted to a goal by Petar Petrović. The rest of the half was an even match between the teams, with the exceptions of a few attempts by Hartford. These occurred in the last few minutes of the game, with a blocked shot by Dren Dobruna and a wide shot by Barerra in stoppage time.
Alongside the consistent and strong defense seen from El Paso, another notable trend seen in this game was Hartford’s ability to set up great plays and create opportunities when they are in possession and even look dangerous in some moments. However, Hartford failed to execute their play, which was seen throughout the contest.
“When we have it, we look okay, and when we don’t have it obviously the other team is easily stringing passes together and we’re chasing,” noted Hartford coach Omid Namazi. “We did the same thing to the other team. We made them chase a little bit in the first half especially, but then we didn’t get what we wanted out of that possession.”
Currently, Hartford stands in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, the bottom slot in the standings. To achieve a spot in the USL Championship playoffs, which is the league they are participating in, they must achieve at least eighth place. With only eight games left in the season, it will be an uphill battle. Hartford Athletic will continue their narrow campaign away against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday.