Hartford Athletic has put an end to their losing streak after a 2-2 draw against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros and a 1-1 draw against Louisville City FC.
The Athletics entered a busy week, with a midweek match-up against the Toros at home, then an away game against Louisville. With just three games left in Hartford’s schedule and playoffs no longer an option, honor is the only thing Hartford has left to play for. After a a nine-game losing streak, players and fans were left desperate for this drought to end.
The match’s opening minutes foreshadowed how the rest of the half would play out. Just five minutes into the game, a pass from Kyle Edwards to Prince Saydee resulted in a goal from the center of the penalty area. After a strong offensive effort by the Athletics side, the Toros responded with a counterattack that resulted in a goal two minutes later. After a defensive error by Hartford, RGV’s Christiano François took possession of the ball and miraculously converted a left-footed shot into a goal. It seemed like the goal would go over the crossbar, but they managed to slip through Hartford’s goalkeeper. While the counterattack would leave anyone defeated, Hartford continued its pace and kept pressing the Valley’s defense. However, it was not enough, as a cross from François resulted in a shot on target by Christian Pinzón, putting the Toros in the lead. RGV continued to overwhelm the Hartford defense. The Toros almost extended their lead in the 31st after François won a duel against the Athletics goalkeeper, Joseph Rice, but François’ shot was too wide. It seemed like it was going to be another game where Hartford desperately sought tot tie the game and salvage a point. However, in the 34th minute, a foul by RGV’s Gabriel Benítez resulted in a penalty awarded to the Hartford side. Saydee stepped up to take the shot and scored. Once again, the game was leveled. With this goal, Saydee not only recorded another brace this season but also took the lead in most goals this season for the Athletics. The second half of the game was back-and-forth from both sides, but the Toros had more shots on target than Hartford. A quiet second half resulted in a draw, with both teams going home with one point, the first point Hartford had received since the first week of August.
Entering the second game of the week, Hartford faced their last away game of the season. Louisville’s dominance set the tone of the match as they controlled the game’s rhythm. In just the first seconds of the match, Louisville created an opportunity to score with a shot Rice blocked. One minute later, a shot found its way to the back of the net that would have given Louisville the lead but was ruled offside. The half continued to be an onslaught of shots by Louisville. It wasn’t until the 22nd minute that Hartford saw its first real opportunity to get on the board. Danny Barreras’ left-footed shot from outside the penalty box was on target but Louisville goalkeeper Oliver Semmle saved it. Hartford once again came close to a lead in the 39th minute with a play by Robin Lapert after passing the ball to Kyle Edwards, but the shot was too high. The rest of the first half was filled with shots from the Hartford offense, but none found its way to the back of the next. The second half was again even as Hartford impressively kept up with the pace and intensity seen from the Louisville side.
Louisville soon broke the Athletics defense. From the other side of the field, Niall McCabe shot the ball near the penalty box, where Rasmus Thellufsen took possession of the ball, dribbled around the Hartford defense, and buried the goal to put them in the lead. Similar to the first half, it was full of Louisville shots. But the Hartford defense and the performance of Rice kept this game from being a blowout victory for the Louisville side. Hartford then changed the game’s tide in the 75th minute after Luke Merill found an opening in the Louisville defense and put the ball away in the bottom left corner. Now tied with an opponent that had outplayed them in possession and shots, Hartford played the rest of the game desperately holding the draw. Their efforts were successful as they drew a point away. Hartford goalkeeper Joseph Rice played a crucial role in this draw, recording seven saves. While a tie might not seem like the best result, given the opponent’s intensity and the team’s losing streak, this was a welcomed result.
Hartford Athletic is almost at the end of a season everyone wants to leave behind. The two draws, especially against a dominant Louisville side away, give confidence that Hartford can end their season on a good note.
The Athletics will have their final game and homecoming marketed as “Fan Appreciation Night” this Saturday with a matchup against FC Tulsa this Friday at 7:00 p.m., live on ESPN+.