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Bye Week Report: Lewis Set For Return, Torres Available for Debut Ahead of New England Clash
Hartford Athletic made a number of announcements this week, including an academy expansion and a new singing ahead of their mid-week U.S. Open Cup match.
Despite seeing no USL Championship play through their first bye-week of the season, it has been a busy week on and off the field for Hartford Athletic ahead of their first-ever meeting with Major League Soccer side New England Revolution on Tuesday.
The first few weeks of the season proved difficult for head coach Tab Ramos and his squad, who went winless through their first six games with a number of injuries testing the squad’s depth. Their last trip represented a shift in momentum though, as Hartford came away with a gritty road win out west over the weekend, delivering Oakland Roots SC their first loss at home in the process.
“I was actually satisfied with our first half [vs. Oakland] because we didn’t allow the other team to play much, which is something we’ve been really good at all year,” Ramos said. “In the second half we allowed 13 passes per defensive action which is the worst we’ve done all year, so our second half was really poor.”
The 2-1 result came courtesy of Prince Saydee’s second goal of the season, a first USL Championship goal from Jeciel Cedeño and 45 minutes of heavy defense to close out the game. While Ramos was happy with the win, he was not comfortable with the desperate nature in which the team had to defend to see out the win.
“We have to become a little bit more of a mature team, we have to be able to manage leads a little bit better,” Ramos said. “The second half we were completely dominated.”
While the second half left room to improve, Ramos did acknowledge the importance of the depth in Saturday’s performance. Without the likes of Andre Lewis, Kembo Kibato and leading scorer Elvis Amoh in the midfield due to injury, Ramos was happy with the players who stepped up off the bench.
“At the same time, I have to be happy with the effort that the team made in the second half,” Ramos said. “Obviously, we have some injuries, and we’re digging really into our full roster at this point. The guys that were on the field gave it their best effort and secured the win and we’re happy about that. Those were three important points.”
A first win of the season could not have come at a more important time for Hartford, who are set to square off against the Revolution in round three of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, in what will be their second-ever meeting with a Major League Soccer club. They hosted MLS side New York Red Bulls in the same round last season, where they ultimately fell 2-1 despite bringing a tight game down to the wire in front of a sold-out home crowd. In that matchup, it was Connor McGlynn’s second-half strike that saw the Green and Blue cut an early 2-0 deficit in half, but Hartford ultimately failed to beat the woodwork on several occasions before bowing out of the competition.
Ahead of the matchup, Hartford have made a number of announcements through the bye week. The news started on Friday with the acquisition of midfielder Juan Pablo Torres from Western Conference side Rio Grande Valley FC. The former New York City FC man will reunite with Ramos after having spent the last two seasons in the USL Championship, logging over 3,500 minutes across 59 appearances. The midfielder scored five goals and assisted three in that stretch.
Torres’s first stint with Ramos came with the U.S. U-20 Youth National Team in 2018. He made seven appearances, recorded two assists, and found the back of the net four times for Ramos’s squad in the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championships, eventually helping the U.S. to the title that year. Torres will be available for Tuesday’s game.
There is more good news for Hartford fans ahead of Tuesday. Midfielder Andre Lewis, who was stretchered off in stoppage time vs. Colorado in week two with what looked to be a serious head injury, returned to practice this week sporting a facemask. Per Hartford Athletic media staff, the midfielder will be included in Tab Ramos’s 18-man squad for Tuesday’s Open Cup clash for the first time since early March. Prior to his Injury, Lewis had played every minute for Hartford. He scored six goals for the club in 2022.
Hartford also announced an expansion to their academy system over the weekend. In partnership with former USL professional Everson Maciel, the club is set to add five new boys teams in Fall 2023 for a total of eight academy teams - adding new U8, U10, U11, U13 and U14 teams to the existing U12, U15 and U9 teams.
A press release from the club provided details on the expansion, alongside increased resources and access to first team events.
“Hartford Athletic Youth Academy teams will benefit from many resources the club is able to provide including training in a professional environment, access to first team coaches and players, season tickets to first team matches and more,” Saturday’s release read. “The U19 team will compete in the UPSL for a second consecutive season. The U13-15 teams will play in the National League while the U8-U12 teams will join the Elite Developmental Program.”
Fresh off of their first win of the season and with a number of additions to a midfield that has been plagued with injuries through the last month, a newly-energized Hartford team are set to face off against the New England Revolution from Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m, and the stream can be viewed here.