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Assessing the 90: Late Surge Not Enough As Hartford Fall Short Against Memphis
The Green and Blue were blanked at home in front of a sellout crowd on Saturday night.
Hartford Athletic returned home for the first time in over a month on Saturday night, but could not use the 5,500-capacity crowd to their advantage as they fell to Memphis 901 FC 2-0.
Coming off of a 3-2 stoppage-time loss to Birmingham that capped off a four-game road trip last weekend, Hartford were in desperate need of both points and momentum ahead of the match, with a chance to leapfrog Memphis and jump into a playoff spot with a win. Instead, they left Trinity Health stadium still in search of their first home win of the season, and find themselves dead last in the USL Championship.
Coming into the match, Hartford was still without the likes of Kembo Kibato (foot) and Elvis Amoh (thigh) due to injury. Head Coach Tab Ramos made only one change to the starting lineup from last week’s loss, bringing in 17-year-old NYCFC academy product Dren Dobruna to replace Ash Apollon in the starting XI for his Hartford Athletic debut. At 17 years and nine months, Dobruna became the youngest player in Hartford Athletic history to start a league game.
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Niall Logue also returned to the squad after being out last week but did not see any action off the bench. Connor McGlynn wore the armband for Hartford in his absence.
It was a positive start for both teams, who came out with energy in the first 25 minutes, although neither side was able to find much in the way of clear goalscoring opportunities through the first half-hour. This changed when Memphis finally found the breakthrough in the 32nd minute to take the 1-0 lead on the road.
Phillip Goodrum stretched the Hartford defense with a pass down the right wing to Luiz Fernando, whose pass across the face of goal was poked on at the far post by Laurent Kissiedo.
Following the goal, Hartford looked deflated, severely struggling to keep up with Memphis and failing to create any dangerous opportunities of their own as they went into the halftime break down 1-0.
Recognizing the need for change, Ramos made the switch from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 formation alongside a triple substitution at the half - Drobuna, Jeciel Cedeño, and Robin Lapert made way for Kyle Edwards, Trison Hodge, and Danny Barrera, who made his 200th USL Championship appearance.
“We were looking to change as much as we could…trying to get Prince [Saydee] on the right side where he’s most dangerous,” Ramos said. “We haven’t had a left winger, and this is why we’ve been playing sort of a 3-5-2 because we don’t really have anyone on the left side, but second half we put Prince on that side and I think he was a lot more dangerous.”
The new-look squad in the second half almost instantly showed increased energy, coming out of the gates playing with a sense of urgency that had been missing since they conceded the first goal. The first chance for Hartford came just three minutes into the half, as Edwards connected on Danny Barrera’s corner kick, heading the cross just over the bar.
Just five minutes later, Prince Saydee got on the end of a long ball on the right wing, moving into the box skillfully past a defender and taking a left-footed shot that was eventually palmed away by Bill Hamid.
From here, Hartford continued to pick up the tempo, creating a number of chances in the final third but ultimately could not capitalize. An end-to-end second half also saw Memphis create opportunities of their own, missing several clear-cut chances in front of goal. One of the best chances for the visitors came when Rashawn Dally broke through on goal in the 82nd minute, getting past an onrushing Richard Sánchez and ultimately missing a wide-open goal from inside the box.
Just minutes after the open-goal miss, the visitors would go on to double their lead. This time, Dally would make up for his previous mistakes with a composed finish, tapping home a cross from just outside the six-yard box to make it a 2-0 game. Richard Sánchez played an important role in keeping Hartford in the game up to that point, making four stops, but it wasn’t enough to keep a dangerous Memphis attack at bay.
“Second half we were a little bit better, [in the] first half we had a really hard time stopping their front four,” Ramos said. “[They had] a lot of movement, we thought we were prepared for that. But at the end of the day, great players make great plays, and they did. They were a handful, those guys up front, and we just didn't do enough to stop them.”
Despite a positive attacking half that saw Hartford take nine shots and put four on target after being outshot 7-1 in the first 45, the second goal proved too much to overcome for the Green and Blue, who ultimately fell to their third-straight loss at home.
The once again will hit the road next weekend, returning to action on Saturday night vs. Phoenix Rising FC. Kickoff is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.