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Assessing The 90: New Coach, Same Story as Hartford Fall to Loudoun Late
The Green and Blue gave up yet another goal in the closing minutes of a weather-delayed contest in Loudoun to once again head home empty handed on Monday.
For Hartford Athletic, a turbulent week spearheaded by the midseason departure of former head coach Tab Ramos brought about hope of a new beginning for fans of the Green and Blue.
However, yet another late defensive mishap the led to a game-deciding goal told a different story in Monday’s 2-1 loss to Loudoun United, despite an improved and new-look Hartford team that certainly showed positive signs of life in the first 45.
In his first game in charge, newly-minted head coach Omid Namazi made several changes to the starting XI — Joe Rice returned between the sticks, while Matt Sheldon, Robin Lapert, Conor McGlynn, Edgardo Rito and Luke made up the backline from left to right. Niall Logue, a regular starter and captain in the back line, started on the bench.
In his place, five-year Hartford veteran Danny Barrera returned to the starting lineup and wore the armband in the middle of the park after seeing limited minutes under Ramos. It was his seventh start of the season, and first in two games after seeing action off the bench in the last two.
Finally, Elvis Amoh, Prince Saydee and Andre Lewis all got the start in the attack while Antoine Hoppenot was benched for the first time this year.
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A new-look Hartford squad got off to a positive start in Loudoun, a team which provided them one of only two wins on the year in their previous meeting at Trinity Health Stadium. The visitors got on the board first inside ten minutes, when Edgardo Rito sent Prince Saydee flying down the right wing with a pass in behind. Coming into the box towards the touch line, the forward calmly cut the ball onto his left foot before slotting the finish past Dane Jacomen to give Hartford the 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
It was not long before the home side responded, however. A well-worked Loudoun move in the 20th minute saw Jackson Hopkins, Zach Ryan and Houssou Landru connect a series of short passes to cut through the Hartford defense, before Landru eventually played the ball across the face and past a rushing Joe Rice for Hopkins to calmly tap the equalizer home from close range.
From there, Hartford would craft a number of dangerous opportunities, beginning just five minutes later when Andrew Lewis found the feet of Prince Saydee running down the right flank with another defense-splitting pass to send the forward in behind. This time, Lewis played Elvis Amoh through on goal centrally, who sent the left-footed effort from the top of the box straight into the feet of Jacomen with only the keeper to beat.
Amoh would find himself on the end of another chance just minutes before the whistle, once again finding himself in on the end of a ball over the top and in behind. Once again, however, the shot would go only as far as the Loudon shot-stopper as the teams headed to the locker rooms knotted at one.
Overall, a positive first 45 minutes showcased Hartford’s attacking versatility — although the finishing touch lacked severely outside of the opening goal, Namazi’s side continually found ways to cut the Loudoun’s defense open and craft several dangerous chances.
The same could not be said for the second half, one that kicked off just past 11 p.m. after the game underwent a lengthy lightning delay amount to almost 2.5 hours. From the outset, Hartford’s defense immediately looked shaky, disorganized and even panicked at times, giving away the ball in dangerous areas before eventually mustering a clearance. Joe Rice was called into action several times during this stretch, including a huge close-range double save in the 53rd minute to keep Loudoun off of the board after Hartford failed to clear the chance.
Ultimately, it was a defensive giveaway that would decide the game with just under 10 minutes to play. Facing his own goal and with pressure on his back just inside his own half, Kaveh Rad played a stray pass across the midfield that was eventually collected by Thomas Williamson with acres of space to run roam behind the defense. Taking it towards goal with just the keeper to beat, the second-half substitute confidently slotted the ball past Joe Rice and into the bottom left corner to give Loudoun the late 2-1 lead, one which they held onto for the win. The late effort was the 12th such goal conceded by Hartford in the final 15 minutes — a league-leading tally.
At the end, Hartford fell victim to the same issues the have been plaguing them all season — late goals and failure to capitalize on opportunities. While Namazi did make full use of his bench and all five substitutions, defensive woes continued to haunt them, and ultimately it cost them all three points once again.
Hartford will return him to action just five days, where Namazi is set to make his debut on the sidelines of Trinity Health Stadium as the Green and Blue play host to San Diego Loyal in search of their first win since late May. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on WCTX MyTV9 and ESPN+.