Assessing the 90: Hartford Battle Until the End, But Ultimately Come Up Short Against New England
The Green and Blue put up a valiant fight against the MLS Supporter's Shield leaders on Tuesday, but it wasn't enough to see their way through to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Hartford Athletic and the New England Revolution faced off for the first time ever in a competitive setting on Tuesday night in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. In a tight game, it was the Revs who took the inaugural edition of the newly-minted “Blazing Musket Derby” with a 2-1 win.
Sam gave his thoughts about the Revs following the game, here are my thoughts about Hartford.
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Coming into Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup round three matchup with only one win through their opening six USL Championship matches, few favored Hartford Athletic’s chances against a New England Revolution side who sit atop Major League Soccer.
However, Hartford came to play in the first half. Taking full advantage of a second-string New England defensive line that included the likes of Ben Sweat, Omar Gonzalez, Christian Makoun and MLS SuperDraft selection Joshua Bolma, the Green and Blue found ways to test a shaky Revs backline on the break through the opening 45 minutes.
“I give Hartford a lot of credit, it’s a well-coached team, they played hard and made us battle right until the end,” Revolution head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena said postgame. “So I think they did what they wanted to do.”
Prince Saydee, as he has been all season, continued to be a sore spot for the opposition defense. Early pressure from the visitors allowed Saydee freedom to roam up top, and the forward found himself on the end of a pair of dangerous opportunities early on as a result. He registered five shots on the night.
Hartford would eventually be rewarded for their efforts in the 52nd minute, as it was once again Saydee pulling the strings in the middle. His run split two Revolution defenders in the midfield, sending him through on goal. He exploded down the wing before squaring the ball to Antoine Hoppenot, who’s finish off of his right thigh found it’s way into the bottom right corner and knotted the game at one.
From there, the Green and Blue continued to find their groove. The next ten minutes saw the visitors control the pace, maintaining the majority of the ball in their attacking end and creating a number of dangerous opportunities.
It took Arena going to his bench and brining on four starters in reigning MLS MVP Carles Gil, Ema Boetang, Dave Romney and Brandon Bye to finally swing the game in the home side’s favor. Romney and Gil would link up for the go-ahead goal just minutes after coming on in what ended up being enough to win the game for the Revs, but Bruce Arena mentioned post game that this was not part of the original plan.
“I would not have played Carles Gil tonight if we did not need a goal,” Arena said. “Actually, he was the last one to warm up. We weren’t gonna use him if we didn't have to tonight.”
Despite letting up an early goal through a corner that debatably should have been dealt with better, Richard Sánchez had one of his better performances between the stick in a Hartford jersey, making four saves on the night. In a game where many would’ve predicted he would be more busy, he displayed confident command of his box and was not afraid to come off his line when called upon. There were even two instances in the first half where the former MLS keeper showed off his distribution with a pair of perfectly weighted through ball the sliced open the Revolution defense, but both passes were called for offsides.
Sánchez proved to be the backbone of what was a resilient Hartford defense throughout the 90 minutes. The defense made 15 clearances and were able to keep the talent of Dylan Borrero relatively quiet throughout the night. They were able to answer the call with their backs to goal for the most part, minus an early corner kick and a trademark Gil moment of magic in the second half.
The game also saw the debut of Juan Pablo Torres, who was signed on Thursday after spending the previous two season in Texas. He started and went 70 minutes in what was a cohesive midfield for the Green and Blue. Andre Lewis also saw a return to the field in the 58th minute, making his first appearance since being stretchered off of the field with a face injury vs. Colorado on March 18.
Overall, Hartford have nothing to hang their heads over after Tuesday’s performance. They came into a tough environment, kept up with the MLS leaders throughout the night and forced the hosts to use make use of their best weapons in order earn a hard-fought victory.
Up next, the Green and Blue will return to USL Championship action following the bye week with a trip to Birmingham Legion FC on Sunday, looking for revenge after the Legion handed Hartford a 1-0 loss in their home opener on March 25.
A good game played by both sides.