The Hartford Athletic’s search for a win continued Saturday after being shut out by Detroit City FC. To say this season was bad for Hartford would be a massive understatement. Currently, the team not only sits last in their conference, but they sit last overall in the league with only 16 points out of a possible 84. They have also endured 20 losses and conceded 64 goals before this game. Lastly, they are eliminated from playoff contention with still a handful of games left in the season. The Athletic have much soul-searching to do and must reinvent themselves as they prepare for the 2024 season.
The work for a better team and overall better organization began with the announcement of the organization’s new CEO, Nick Sakiewicz, at the start of the week. In a statement from the team, “Nick is the perfect addition to drive the growth of Hartford Athletic on and off the field,” said Chairman Bruce Mandell. “Nick has the skills and track record of success necessary to move our club forward by building a competitive team on the field, establishing a best-in-class youth academy, and deepening our roots in the community.” With new leadership and the sense that the club must go in a new direction, the foundation for an Athletic comeback is slowly forming; however, that is still much easier said than done.
In the game’s opening minutes, Hartford was keen on rushing the Detroit defense. In the 12th minute of the game, the Athletic’s Antoine Hoppenot won possession of a passed ball from Kembo Kibato and created a shot on target, which Detroit’s goalkeeper Nathan Steinwascher saved. After being blocked, Hartford’s Elvis Amoh shot a ball that Steinwascher defelcted. As time raged on, it did not take long for Detroit to answer to the Athletic’s offensive efforts. With 24 minutes left, Hartford’s goalkeeper deflected the ball off a shot from Connor Rutz. The ball would land right at the feet of Darío Suárez, who managed to score, putting Detroit in the lead. While the Athletic made many great efforts to turn the tide of the match, that did not stop Detroit from doubling their lead after Michael Bryant successfully took advantage of a set piece from a free kick. At the end of the first half, Hartford had a free kick that came close to becoming a goal, but Detroit’s goalkeeper’s stellar performance once again saved the team.
The second half of the match saw a more fired-up Athletic side. Multiple impressive plays from players like Tristian Hodge and Prince Saydee showed promise of a possible comeback effort by the team. Hartford came close to achieving that ambition in the 53rd minute when Danny Barreras attempted a shot after Amoh crossing the ball to the penalty box area. Still, the Detroit goalkeeper prevented Hartford from returning to the board. The Athletic’s aspiration of a comeback dwindled when a corner kick from Detroit was converted to a goal by Matt Lewis in the 57th minute. The majority of the game was an even battle, but Hartford increased the intensity in the final stretch of the game. In the 81st minute, from outside the box, Connor McGlynn attempted to score but was saved by goalkeeper Steinwascher. The rest of the half was silent, resulting in a shutout for Detroit.
What sets this game apart from past games is the passion seen in Hartford. Yes, it was a 3-0 loss, but unlike prior games, the Athletic maintained their consistency and were simply unlucky in this game. When it came to possession and shots attempted, they were the superior team in this one. However, it took a few defensive mistakes and an incredible performance from the Detroit goalkeeper to keep this team from finding their way onto the scoreboard. Hartford’s first match of their season-ending three-game homestand begins with a game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday, which can be streamed on ESPN+.