Discover more from The Blazing Musket
Assessing The 90: Stoppage-Time Winner Sends Hartford Home Empty-Handed, Again
The Green and Blue were just seconds away from their first point since early June in Tulsa, but will instead head back to the drawing board once again after a sixth straight loss.
Stoppage time simply has not been friendly for Hartford Athletic, and Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to FC Tulsa proved to be no exception.
Just under a minute away from what would have been their first point in over a month since a 1-1 draw at Indy Eleven on June 10, the Green and Blue once again let up a late goal deep into second-half stoppage time to seal an all-too-familiar fate — heading home empty handed yet again in their sixth-straight loss, and 13th of the season.
Such a consistent string of late goals and blown leads seems almost incomprehensible at this point, and the fate of Hartford Athletic feels almost too predictable late in games — it has been a problem dating back to last season, and still persists despite a pair of coaching changes more than a year later. As a team, Hartford have conceded a league-most 41 goals on the year, and 13 of them have come in the final 15 minutes.
However, as has been the case throughout the entirety of the season, Hartford had their positive moments through stretches of the game, moments that were ultimately not enough to come away with a result.
So, what exactly happened in Saturday’s loss? Let’s assess the 90.
Omid Namazi’s third starting lineup as head coaching once again saw a change between the sticks, as Richard Sánchez got the nod over Joe Rice for the first time under Namazi. Once again deploying a five-man backline, Triston Hodge, Robin Lapert and Connor McGlynn anchored the middle while Matt Sheldon returned to the steering XI along with Edgardo Rito at the wingback role.
In the middle of the park, Danny Barrera made his third consecutive start wearing the armband, flanked by Juan Pablo Torres and Andre Lewis while Prince Saydee and Elvis Amoh led the line in the attack.
Notably, former captain and central defender Niall Logue started on the bench for the second time under Namazi, alongside Antoine Hoppenot, Luke Merrill and Kyle Edwards. Hoppenot and Logue were both regular starters under Ramos in the opening half of the 2023 season, and have seen their time reduced in the short time since Namazi has taken over the head coaching role.
Still, almost halfway through the season, the starting XI has severely lacked any sort of consistency. The Green and Blue have not fielded the same staring XI for two consecutive games at all in 2023, and that trend continued on Saturday.
Despite coming out with energy in the first ten minutes, a struggling Hartford defense would eventually concede the opener in the inside 13 minutes. It came when Eric Bird played a long ball over the top from inside his own half, finding the feet of Marcus Epps with only the keeper to beat, who calmly took his first touch around and onrushing Sánchez and into the far side netting to open the scoring.
Hartford responded positively to the goal, testing Michael Nelson’s net on a pair of occasions before Elvis Amoh eventually found the equalizer. Rising above everyone, the 31-year-old redirected Matt Sheldon’s long throw goalward in the 24th minute with a flicked header that just barely beat the outstretched fingertips of Nelson to level the game at one.
Tulsa, however, continued to keep they foot on the gas in the early stages. Forcing yet another dangerous defensive giveaway from Hartford just ten minutes later, the hosts kickstarted an attack that eventually saw Moses Dwyer send in a cross on the turn with his back to goal. The searching ball found the head of Phillip Goodrum at the back post, who redirected it across the face and past an outstretched Sánchez to re-establish the early lead, 2-1 through 34 minutes.
Continuing to knock on the door of the Hartford goal as the first half came to a close, Tulsa nearly forced an own goal to double their advantage just before halftime. In an attempt to clear Marcus Epps’ cross out of the danger zone, Triston Hodge nailed his own crossbar with from close range before seeing the ball bounce back out into the grateful gloves of Richard Sánchez as the hosts maintained the one-goal lead.
The game would eventually see an own goal in the 60th minute, but it came in favor of Hartford. Receiving the ball with space to operate on the right flank, Edgardo Rito sent a low ball across the face of goal, where a sliding Rashid Tetteh could not do enough to keep it out as he redirected it into his own net to knot the game at two.
Despite being outshot 17-7 on the night, Hartford managed to hang on until the depths of stoppage time, even crafting a few good looks of their own in that time. The best chance in the final phase came in the 83rd minute, when Danny Barrera’s free kick found the head of second-half substitute Kyle Edwards, who’s glancing effort forced a low reflex save from Nelson at the near post.
Finally, just as it seemed like Hartford were primed to leave Tulsa with a point, disaster struck yet again deep into the fifth minute of added time. After sharp buildup play saw the hosts cut through the Hartford defense with a set of quick passes, Collin Fernandez eventually found the feet of a wide-open Goodrum at the back post, who nailed the half-volley past Sánchez and into the bottom right corner for his second goal of the night to give Tulsa the 3-2 win.
Losers of their sixth straight and winless in nine, Hartford will go again once more on Saturday in their second of three straight road matches. They are set to travel out west for a 10:30 kickoff on Saturday, where a valuable opportunity awaits them in a Las Vegas Lights squad that have only one win on the year, and sit bottom of the western conference on 11 points and nine losses.
With only three wins between them, the two bottom teams in each conference will have their sights set on a confidence-boosting result as the halfway point of the 2023 season has officially come and gone. For Hatford, it is beginning to feel more like a do-or-die situation in Namazi’s fourth game in charge with the team desperately in search of a much-needed win.
Whether or not the result will come remains to be seen. For now, it is back to the drawing board for the 13th time this season for Hartford.