Hartford Athletic ended their season at home but failed to do so on a good note with a 5-2 loss to Tulsa.
It has been a long and disappointing season for Hartford Athletic. Going into this final game, they have only recorded four wins while piling on 21 losses. Their last fixture was marketed as “Fan Appreciation Night.” This match was an opportunity to showcase to supporters that there is hope left for the team and deliver a much-needed moral victory after a winless run spanning back to early August.
From the halfs opening minutes, the Hartford defense was uncoordinated and gave up opportunities for Tulsa. In fact, it only took five minutes for Tulsa to strike first. The goal came from a right-footed shot off Marcus Epps’ boot that found its way to the back of the net after being shot from an awkward angle. Hartford’s homecoming soon became a nightmare in the ninth minute when Tulsa’s Blaine Ferri tapped in a goal and doubled their lead, which Epps assisted. With only 10 minutes of play in the books, Hartford was once again faced with an uphill battle.
They came close to going on the board with a 12th-minute corner, but Connor McGlynns came up short after Tulsa goalkeeper Austin Wormell saved it. As Hartford ramped up their offensive plays, so did Tulsa. Tulsa’s efforts proved more effective when their lead extended to three in the 17th minute. Epps once again assisted inside the penalty box after passing it to Moses Dyer who took the shot and got past the Athletics. With another 28 minutes of play left in just the half, things were looking bleak for Hartford.
Then came Prince Saydee, who found an opening in the Tulsa defense and scored from outside the box in the 30th minute. The first half came to an end with four combined goals.
It was a strong start for the Athletics in the second half, as their offense pressured the visiting side. Antoine Hoppenot nearly scored for Hartford in the 54th minute with a header, but it was too wide. Just minutes later, the Athletics attempted another shot but missed again and hit the top of the crossbar. While Hartford did a great job early in the frame, pressing the Tulsa defense, Tulsa soon regained control. Once in possession, they wasted no time to transition, resulting in another goal that Angel Bernal taped in.
The half continued to be a quiet one up until the closing minutes. That’s when Tulsa’s Nathan Worth extended their total to five after Hartford left more than enough space for him to shoot and bury the ball with a shot on target. It was set to be a bleak ending for Hartford, but defender Robin Lapert lightened the atmosphere with an 89th-minute header that went over Tulsa’s goalkeeper’s head. While the scoreline is not at all what Hartford or the fans wanted, the ending moments saw a more inspired Athletics side.
Hartford Athletic ends the season with historic lows, but there are many striking takeaways from the USL Team. Hartford clearly has a drive to win. It was seen early in the season when they would take on early leads or be close many times to come back from two to three-goal deficits. The problem is they have trouble finishing. They came up short time and time again. This issue must be resolved if they want the chance to come back to form. However, the most striking thing about Hartford Athletic this season did not come from the players or the coaching staff but from the fans themselves. For example, even coming off a historically low season, Hartford’s final game of the season was a sellout crowd. A packed Trinity Health Stadium was not just seen in this game but throughout the whole campaign. The average attendance for the season was over 4,800 for a stadium that has a capacity of 5,500. The Athletics’ fanbase has stuck by Hartford through it all. From the highs of clinching first place in their conference in 2020 to their historic losing streak this season, Hartford’s fanbase will always show out and support their local team. And that support will carry on next season, as Hartford will return for the USL Championships 2024 Season.