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Bolstering the Back Line: New Additions to Watch for Hartford Athletic (Part 3)
Just two days out from the start of the 2023 USL Championship season, here's a look at Hartford's offseason defensive acquisitions in the final part of a three-part series.
After a 10th-place finish in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference last year saw Hartford allow 57 goals, it is no surprise that defensive depth was a top priority going into 2023 for Tab Ramos and his staff.
In the final part of a three-part series, here is a look at every new defensive acquisition for Hartford over the offseason - buckle up, it’s a long list.
Hartford’s first addition to the backline in the offseason, Logue spent the previous two seasons with fellow Eastern Conference side Memphis 901 FC. A regular starter in the backline for Memphis, Logue made 47 appearances for the club, helping lead them to their first-ever playoff appearance in 2021, followed by a second-place finish in 2022. In two years, Logue racked up 48 blocked shots and 176 clearances.
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His professional career started in 2018, when he returned home after four years playing college soccer, signing for his hometown club of Derry FC in Northern Ireland. He made four appearances for Derry before going on loan to Irish side Finn Harps, where he would make 23 appearances in two seasons. He scored his only professional goal of his career with the Harps in 2019, before making the move overseas to the USL Championship one year later.
He spent time with FC Tucson (2020) and El Paso Locomotive (2021) before he was loaned out to Memphis, where he would eventually sign permanently.
One of three acquisitions from Western Conference foe Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the offseason, Hodge spent the last two seasons with Colorado. A regular starter at left back, the 28-year-old recorded 21 starts in 26 appearances in 2022, helping lead a stout Switchbacks defense to 10 clean sheets and a Western Conference Final appearance. He led the team with 40 won tackles, also registering 40 clearances and 23 interceptions.
A player with international experience, Hodge has also featured for the Trinidad and Tobago national team 16 times, including an appearance in their famous 2-1 win over the United States in 2017 that prevented the Stars and Stripes from qualifying for their eighth-straight World Cup.
Before making the move to the U.S, Hodge began his professional career in 2015 with W Connection FC, six-time champion of Trinidad and Tobago’s premier division. He made five appearances in his first year at the club, going on loan to Toronto FC II on loan in 2016. He made three appearances with Toronto’s reserves before continuing his loan spell at Memphis 901 FC from 2019-20, where he scored his first professional goal and made 20 appearances.
Hodge eventually made his move to the US permanent, being acquired by Colorado in 2021. In two seasons, he saw regular playing time in 42 appearances, scoring one goal.
A product of Sporting Kansas City’s academy, Rad signed a homegrown contract with Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City in April 2021, making five appearances for the club’s senior team after spending three years with their USL affiliate, Swope Park Rangers (Now Sporting Kansas City II). The 21-year-old eventually became a regular for the second team after being with their academy since 2016, making 57 appearances in four seasons and scoring one goal.
Rad’s experience at the top level in the United States has seen him put in several noteworthy performances, including a Man of the Match and Team of the Week performance in a 4-1 win over FC Tulsa in June 2021 that saw him score his first and only professional goal.
After making his MLS debut for Sporting Kansas City in May of 2021 at age 19, Rad’s five appearances for the first team before his contract option was declined by Kansas City in 2022.
Yet another player to sign his first professional contract with Hartford after attending the club’s invitational combine in January 2023, Merrill comes to Hartford after two seasons with Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. In two seasons with the Griffins, Merrill played 2322 minutes across 31 appearances, scoring 10 goals and assisting three.
In his senior season at Westminster in 2022, he recorded 1,185 minutes, starting in all but one game. He scored seven goals and recorded one assist.
Merrill came to Westminster after spending two years with Salt Lake Community College in Utah, where he earned All-Region 18 Second Team honors in 2019. In two seasons, he recorded seven assists.
A six-year USL Championship veteran, Matt Sheldon comes to Hartford after spending the 2022 season with Charleston Battery FC. A regular starter in the Charleston backline, Sheldon made 27 starts.
The 30-year-old led the Battery with 64 crosses last season, two of which assisted goals. One of his assists came against Hartford Athletic at Trinity Health Stadium last July in a 3-1 win.
In his six-year tenure in the USL Championship, Sheldon has also spent time with Orange County Soccer Club (2016), Saint Louis FC (2018), and FC Tulsa (2019-21), registering over 8,000 minutes in 123 total appearances.
In his time with Tulsa, he became a regular starter, seeing consistent action in 65 starts across three seasons. The defender made 48 interceptions, won 40 tackles and 182 duels, and scored two goals with Tulsa before joining Charleston.
Sheldon also enjoyed a successful college career, playing for The University of California Davis Aggies from 2011-14. In 81 appearances across four seasons, he recorded 15 goals and seven assists.
Before making his move to the USL Championship, Sheldon would also spend a brief stint overseas, playing for German side SG Kinzenbach in 2016, where he scored one goal in 13 appearances. He also featured for New Zealand club Waterside Karori AFC in 2018.