Assessing the 90: Hartford Athletic Fall To League-Leading Sacramento Republic
A spirited first-half showing was not enough for the Green and Blue, who fell to their seventh loss of the season on Friday.
Although a positive first half saw Hartford Athletic keep up with Sacramento Republic and even dominate the attack at times, the Green and Blue ultimately fell short in front of a packed Trinity Health Stadium on Friday night, allowing three unanswered goals and falling 4-1 to the league leaders.
Tab Ramos made a pair of changes to the starting XI for Hartford’s second home game in as many weeks, with both Prince Saydee and Robin Lapert left out of the 18 after coming off with injuries (status unclear) vs. Loudoun. Kaveh Rad stepped in to replace Lapert in the backline, and Elvis Amoh returned to the XI for the first time since being sidelined with an injury in early April after picking up a goal in his return to the field vs. Loudoun.
Elsewhere, the lineup remained largely unchanged. Danny Barrera made his second consecutive start in place of Jeciel Cedeño, while Kyle Edwards also got the nod after picking up an assist and drawing a penalty vs. Loudoun.
Hartford got things started early, as Danny Barrera sent in the first corner of the game with just four minutes gone. The in swinger from the right side found the open head of Niall Logue, who’s controlled header fell just wide of the far post.
Hartford continued to knock on the door in the early stages, as Danny Barrera found the head of Elvis Amoh in the box just minutes later. His header in the ninth minute once again bounced just wide. Amoh would continue to be active inside the first ten minutes, flying down the wing just seconds later and forcing a goalmouth clearance with a dangerous cross.
As the game settled down, Hartford began to possess the ball, limiting a league-leading front three to almost no chances and forcing the visitors to play down the wings. Hartford out-possessed Sacramento 61-39% in the opening 15 minutes.
This would not last long, however, as it was Sacramento who eventually found the back of the net in the 18th minute. Russell Cicerone found the end of a well-worked Sacramento move in the box, slotting the ball past Richard Sánchez and into the bottom left corner for his 50th career USL Championship goal, and golden-boot leading ninth tally of 2023.
Down 1-0 against the league-leaders, Hartford came roaring back just seconds later. Less than five minutes after conceding, Elvis Amoh was pulled down in the box by Danny Vitiello in an attempt to get on the end of a looping cross, drawing Hartford’s second penalty in as many games. Kyle Edwards stepped up and slammed the ball to the keeper’s right to level the game at one.
Reinvigorated by the equalizer, Hartford once again stepped on the gas. Long-distance shots from Juan Pablo Torres and Kyle Edwards tested the Sacramento defense he minutes following the goal as Hartford outshot Sacramento 5-2 in the opening half-hour.
Once again though, Sacramento would find a way to break through in the 38th minute. Antoine Hoppenot was shown yellow for a foul in the box, and Juan Herrera sent Sánchez guessing the wrong way to re-take the 2-1 lead for the visitors from the spot.
Despite going into the break trailing 2-1, Hartford put on a positive showing in first half and made Sacramento work for it. They outshot the visitors 6-4, out possessed them 56-44% and forced one save, but it was not enough to keep a league-leading attack at bay.
Straight out of the second half, it was Sacramento who controlled attacking possession, and it did not take long for them to take advantage. Just four minutes into the half, Jack Gurr got on the end of Aldair Sanchez’s cross at the top of the box, sending a volley off the outstretched foot of Richard Sánchez and slowly bouncing into the back of the net to double the lead for the visitors.
Despite going down early in the half, Hartford did not give up, continuing to keep hold of the ball in their half. One of their best chances of the half came just inches away from a second goal in the 62nd minute, as Elvis Amoh’s close-range header slammed off of the left post and was deflected back for a corner.
Hartford continued to to test the waters as the second half wore on, sending in six crosses and putting increasing pressure on the Sacramento backline. However, they struggled to construct anything in the way of clear goalscoring opportunities as the clock ticked into the 80th minute.
Elvis Amoh would be the next Hartford man to get a close glimpse at goal as the half came to a close, curling a free kick from outside the 18 over the seven-man wall and just beyond the crossbar in the 81st minute.
Despite the best efforts of a resilient Hartford squad, the nail in the coffin would come just three minutes later. Luther Archimede would get on the end of a cutting pass down the right wing, completing the run from midfield by tucking home a composed finished at the near post. Sánchez got a hand on the shot, but could not keep the ball out of the net as Hartford fell to their seventh loss of the season in a 4-1 defeat.
Despite the loss, Hartford racked up double Sacramento’s shots (14-7) and out-possessed them 55-45% through 90 minutes, but just could not find the back of the net from open play. Against the best attack in the league, Hartford were always going to be punished for not finding the net.
Next up for the Green and Blue, they will face yet another tough opponent vs. Louisville City in their third-consecutive home game next Saturday, looking to finish the home stand on a high note.
For now, it is another tough pill to swallow for Tab Ramos and his squad.