Assessing the 90: Defensive Issues Strike Again as Hartford Athletic Fall to Detroit City FC
“It’s difficult, because we really prepared for this one, we thought that we really needed this game...now we have to go back to the drawing board. It's not easy."
Unbeaten in two and three points outside of a playoff spot ahead of Hartford Athletic’s midweek matchup with Detroit City FC, The Green and Blue had a chance to turn the tide on an otherwise disappointing season and pick up momentum at home on Wednesday.
Instead, they went behind early and conceded three goals to the lowest-scoring team in the USL Championship in front of the home fans, losing 3-1 in what Ramos later described as a match Hartford desperately needed to win.
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"We weren’t good enough today,” Ramos said. “It’s difficult, because we really prepared for this one, we thought that we really needed this game. We were three points from the playoff line [and] had we won today we’d be right on it, and now we have to go back to the drawing board. It’s not easy.”
Ramos put out a starting XI that most notably featured a first start in Green and Blue for the 2022 All-USL First Team defender Edgardo Rito after the former Oakland man made his debut off the bench in Hartford’s 1-1 tie at Indy Eleven. In a full 90-minute performance, the 27-year-old generated two chances and sent in eight crosses on the attack.
“On the positive side, I think Rito really showed the class player he is, and we’re lucky to have him,” Ramos said. "He was a league’s best-11 last year for a reason, I think he’s one of the best right-sided players in the league. Fortunately, with the guys in the office we were able to pull this off somehow, and I think he brings a lot to the team…If I’m a fan, that’s the kind of guy that I want to come watch.”
The remainder of the lineup remained unchanged from the weekend trip, as Joe Rice once again got the call in goal, making his third consecutive start between the sticks for Hartford.
After staying scoreless through the first 20 minutes, it was eventually Detroit who struck first in the 24’. Ben Morris cut through a standstill Hartford defensive line to get in behind, playing the ball off a teammate before slotting the ball past Joe Rice from close range to take the 1-0 lead. The calm finish into the bottom left corner was his first of the year, and only Detroit’s eighth goal of 2023 as a team — the lowest such tally in the USL Championship.
In the 33rd minute, things threatened to get out of hand for Hartford when the ball struck the arm of a sliding Rito in the box after a disorganized defensive effort, earning the visitors a penalty kick. Maxi Rodriguez sent the shot to Rice’s left, but the former New England Revolution keeper got down in time and was equal to the shot, making a crucial save from 12 yards.
From there, Hartford strung together a string of momentum that saw them put some test the Detroit goal with some of their best opportunities of the night, and Antoine Hoppenot eventually took advantage in the 37th minute. Kyle Edwards made the initial run into the box from the right wing before eventually squaring it at the top of the 18 for Prince Saydee.
Saydee’s initial effort was blocked by the Detroit defense but fell only as far as the wide-open feet of Hoppenot, who slammed home the equalizer just outside the 6-yard box against his former team.
Just as Hartford fans thought that their team had rescued what could have been a disastrous first half, the Green and Blue once again failed to capitalize on their equalizer as Detroit responded just under six minutes later. It was once again the fault of a serious defensive miscue in which Hartford failed to clear an ensuing free kick from long range, which eventually looped into the box and found the feet of Morris. Morris quickly redirected the ball to the feet of Skage Simonsen, who found the bottom right corner of Rice’s goal with another composed finish to give the visitors the 2-1 lead going into the break.
Despite finishing the half with a trio of dangerous opportunities, Hartford found themselves 2-1 with 45 minutes left to play and struggled to generate a direct goalscoring threat. Ben Morris eventually deliver the dagger in the heart of Hartford’s comeback effort in the 59th minute, when Morris got on the end of an inch-perfect Rhys Williams cross to complete his brace from point-blank range and ice the 3-1 win for Detroit.
Despite once again out-possessing (60%-40%) and out-shooting (16-11) their opponent on the night, Hartford struggled to create many dangerous chances after only putting three of their shots on target, unable to find the frame with their last six after going down by two goals.
“The last game we played Indy, we should’ve won that game by three goals and we came back with a 1-1 tie,” Ramos said. “It’s easy to look at the defenders at the end of the day because we give up goals, but really we should be scoring a lot more goals than we’re scoring right now. That’s disappointing.”
Finally, the tail end of Wednesday’s loss saw the return of Elvis Amoh, who was sidelined with a thigh injury vs. Louisville just weeks after returning from an injury that kept him out for over a month.
“He has only one training session before today, so we’re just hoping [that] on Saturday he’s ready to go…With the addition of Rito now, if those guys play together for 90 minutes I think they can make some things happen,” Ramos stated.
As Ramos said after the defeat, it is now back to the drawing board once again for Hartford Athletic, who will not have much time to digest the result before a quick turnaround against Charleston on Saturday.
Kickoff from Trinity Health Stadium is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+ and WCTX MyTV9.