The Hartford Athletic once again find themselves in a position they are unfortunately all too familiar with: another loss. This time, they fell to the Tampa Bay Rowdies after conceding two own-goals.
The program enters the final stretch of the season with a lot to reflect on. The last time Hartford secured a victory was on Aug. 5 against New Mexico United. With their last two games of the season being at home and no postseason play planned, they continue to seek a win and end the season on a good note.
There has been an attempt to change the culture of the organization this season. From a new head coach to a new CEO, it is clear that the Athletic are trying to rebuild a club that used to be competitive in the league. The question that has to be answered is, what are some takeaways that come from the final few matches of the season, and how can they be applied for 2024?
It was an even start for both clubs and the race was on to score first. Hartford set up many plays through good passing and dribbling, but they were not able to execute the play the way they wanted to and wasted opportunities once they got a touch on the ball. From overshooting the ball out to losing control to the Tampa Bay side, it was an uncoordinated effort at times.
Meanwhile, the Rowdies took advantage of this and did not waste time to set up plays that resulted in many shots on target. One of these attempts found its way to the back of the net with the help of Hartford goalkeeper Joseph Rice. After a shot from Tampa’s Lewis Hilton, the ball rebounded off Rice’s back, then into the goal.
Early in the half, Hartford was already down and the Athletics offense was desperately seeking a goal. They thought they found it in the 25th minute by Prince Saydee, but the goal was ruled as offside. This call immediately angered the Athletics bench, which earned them a yellow card. After the call, Tampa Bay countered, attacked the ball and found its way onto the penalty area of Hartford’s side. In an attempt to clear the ball, Beverly Makangila deflected the ball and doubled Tampa’s lead in the process. The rest of the half was quiet for both teams.
In the second half, Hartford was not giving up easily as their attackers seemed spirited in pursuit of a late comeback. Yet, these efforts were not enough with Hartford losing control of the game and even losing their temper with players Conor McGlynn, Ariel Martínez and Kembo Kibato all being booked with yellow cards early in the second half. The Athletic almost found its way onto the scoreboard with a play in the 72nd minute. Danny Barrera had a clear shot at the net but his right foot shot was a clear error that resulted in the ball going over the goalpost. This half had a Hartford team that kept outshooting the Tampa side, but their shots were too wide or blocked by the Tampa goalkeeper Connor Sparrow. By the end of the game, the Hartford side was visibly frustrated and exhausted as the whistle blew to end another disappointing showing.
This game is yet another example of a long line of frustrating showings by the Hartford team. What is more frustrating is the fact that Athletics had many moments in the game that could have led to a different result at the end of the night. They had more shots attempted, more possession of the ball and none of the goals were scored by a Tampa player. Uncoordinated attacks and simple reckless mistakes resulted in another loss for them.
“We had our opportunities again,” noted Hartford coach Omid Namazi, “we keep training on it, and to answer your question we just gotta keep practicing and get better.” Namazi further explained “look, at some point, we gotta figure out, maybe we need other guys to come in and help us out and we are in the process of doing that and identifying players who can help us out.”
Now, Hartford is looking ahead to the 2024 season. In the offseason, the club will indeed seek new players who can bring the team back to form in what has been nothing short of a disastrous season. The Athletic will continue to play Saturday, Sept. 30, against Miami FC in their final away game this season.