Discover more from The Blazing Musket
Assessing The 90: Hartford Fall in Weather-Delayed Battle vs. Pittsburgh
The Green and Blue could not capitalize on last weekend's momentum against the Eastern Conference leaders.
After passing storms delayed kickoff for more than three hours on Saturday at Highmark Stadium, Hartford Athletic fell to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on the road.
Despite the delay, the Eastern Conference leaders took charge early and never looked back against a Hartford team desperate for points to keep their season alive, who could not orchestrate a comeback this time around in a 2-0 loss.
After his second consecutive Save of the Week bid and second Team of the Week appearance in three weeks, Joe Rice got the start between the sticks for Omid Namazi’s side. Newly-signed Modesto Méndez got his second start in as many games as the centerpiece of the back line, joined alongside an unchanged central pairing of Connor McGlynn and Triston Hodge while Edgardo Rito and Kembo Kibato started on the outside.
The only change from last week’s victory vs. New Mexico came in the midfield, where Luke Merrill replaced the suspended Andre Lewis. Danny Barrera and Juan Pablo Torres joined him in the midfield, while Prince Syadee and Antoine Hoppenot led the line in a two-striker system for the second straight week.
The Blazing Musket is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The first real chance of the game came early in favor of the visitors when Danny Barrera sent a perfectly-weighted ball over the top and to the feet of a streaking Edgardo Rito, whose box-to-box run down the right flank saw him send a low cross into the feet of Antoine Hoppenot. In behind the defenders, the French forward sent the right-footed strike just beyond and outstretched Jahmali Waite in goal and wide of the right post.
Despite the chance, Hartford was the first to concede inside the opening 20 minutes. It happened when Méndez miscontrolled an attempted interception in the box allowing Daniel Rovira to poke the ball to the feet of Albert Dikwa who tucked the ball into the bottom left corner for his second goal in as many games to give the hosts the lead.
The Riverhounds went on to double their lead just four minutes before the halftime whistle. Former Hartford man and 2021 leading goalscorer Juan Carlos Obreón Jr. was the one to convert from the spot, sending Joe Rice the wrong way with a confident finish after being tripped up on the edge of the box by Méndez in the buildup.
Ultimately, the first half lead would be enough for the Riverhounds to hold on to their league-leading 12th clean sheet and eighth home win of the season. However, they came close to a third goal in the early stages of the second half when former New England Revolution midfielder Edward Kizza got on the end of a crafty set piece buildup from inside the 18, taking it down onto his right foot before forcing a reflex save from Rice, who pushed the close-range laser out for a corner.
Kizza got on the end of yet another cross just one minute later in the 56th, sending a header into the ground and wide of the right post. Potentially his best chance of the night however would come ten minutes later, when he got on the end of a pass in open space inside the six-yard box. With nobody to beat from point-blank range and only an open goal to shoot at, the midfielder nailed the left post with a sliding effort, missing a golden opportunity to bury the game for good.
Despite the miss and a sole shot on target from Danny Barrera late in the second half, the Eastern Conference leaders eventually held Hartford to a 2-0 loss, their league-high 15th of the season. Hartford will now head home for a stretch of three straight home games to round out the month of August, one that will likely be the last chance to revive what is left of their season.