Hartford Athletic Earn 1st League Win of 2023, Hand Oakland First Loss in 4 Games
The Green and Blue struggled through some nervy moments late in the game, but two first half goals were ultimately enough to send Hartford home with all three points.
Hartford Athletic finally got their first USL Championship win of 2023 in dramatic fashion on Saturday night, breaking a three-game win streak for Oakland Roots FC and handing the hosts their first home loss in 2023 in the process.
Despite missing the likes of Kembo Kibato (foot), Andre Lewis (head) and Elvis Amoh (thigh) on the attack due to injury, the Green and Blue showcased their depth in Saturday’s win. Danny Barerra, Connor McGlynn and Kyle Edwards would all get the start as Tab Ramos was once again forced to shuffle the deck with his starting XI.
The game got off to an electric start, with both sides getting looks at goal inside the opening 10 minutes. Prince Saydee would find his way behind the back line with a pair of early opportunities during that stretch, but couldn’t find anyone in the box with the blocked crosses.
Just minutes later, it was the home side who would get their best chance early on. Edgardo Rios came flying down the right wing on the counter, finding his way into the box and forcing a sharp save from Richard Sánchez with the close range shot.
From there, both teams began to settle into the game. It wasn’t until the 31st minute that either team found a clear-cut chance, as Hartford once again found themselves on the attack. Antoine Hoppenot sent a cross in from the left wing looking for the feet of Kyle Edwards, but the cross was deflected away at the goalmouth by a defender. It fell only as far as the waiting feet of Prince Saydee inside the box, who powered the ball into the bottom left corner to give the visitors the 1-0 lead with his fourth goal of the year. Prince Saydee once again found himself through on goal just two minutes later, but this time Paul Blanchette was quick off of his line to make the save.
The goal marked the first time that Oakland had trailed at home through three games this season, a stretch in which they had outscored their opponents 7-1 coming into this contest. For Hartford, who had also taken the lead in the first half last week in Charleston before eventually losing the game, the question was whether or not they could hold it.
Just four minutes later, Jeciel Cedeño had the answer. He dribbled through traffic at the top of the box, finding his way through on goal before calmly slotting a left-footed finish past Blanchette for his first USL Championship goal to double the lead for Hartford.
The goal would ensure that the Green and Blue went into the locker room with the lead for the first time in USL Championship play this season, but it was the home side who piled on the pressure from the second half kickoff.
Straight from the whistle, Oakland launched onto the attack, sending a series of shots towards Richard Sánchez’s goal in the opening sequence. Sánchez was called into action several times during this period, most notably coming up huge in the 53rd minute with a close range save of Dariusz Formella’s shot that was sailing towards the roof of the net.
Hartford continued to weather the storm through the next 20 minutes, but Oakland would eventually find their breakthrough from the penalty spot. Cedeño was booked for a foul on the outside of the box, and the resulting free kick caused havoc for Hartford. The ball would be sent straight into the hand of Tristan Hodge, who was already on a yellow, to give Oakland a penalty. However, in a rare case of mistaken identity, the referee instead booked Kyle Edwards for the offense, preventing Hodge from seeing red and sending Hartford down to ten men.
Despite the lucky break for the visitors, Formella converted from the spot, cutting the deficit in half with under 20 minutes to go. From here, Hartford packed it in defensively, inviting intense Oakland pressure to close out the game. Oakland took 10 shots to Hartford’s one, 8 corners and possessed 76% of the ball in the second half, completing 223 successful passes to Hartford’s 50. However, the visitors ultimately did enough to hold on to the narrow win to collect their first three points of the year.
Following an off-week from league play, the Green and Blue will travel to Gillette Stadium for their second-ever meeting with a Major League Soccer team next time out, set to face the New England Revolution in round three of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, April 25th. Kickoff from Foxborough, Massachusetts is set for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+.