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Hartford Athletic Set to Take On Birmingham Legion FC in 2023 Home Opener
After kicking off their season with a two-game road stretch out west, the Green and Blue will have a first chance to play in front of the home fans on Saturday.
After 167 days, Hartford Athletic are set to make their long-awaited return to Trinity Health Stadium on Saturday for their 2023 USL Championship home opener vs. Birmingham Legion FC.
The game is the first road test for Birmingham, who opened up their season with a 1-1 draw against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds before earning a 3-2 stoppage-time win against FC Tulsa last time out.
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In the win, the Legion’s Tyler Pasher bagged a brace, earning a spot on the USL Championship’s Team of the Week as well as the number three spot on ESPN Sportscenter’s top 10 for his 83rd-minute equalizer. The forward cut through the Tulsa defense with a skillful solo run, putting four defenders on skates before sending a low shot to the bottom right corner from almost 30 yards out.
Birmingham’s 2021 Golden Boot winner, Neco Brett, also opened up his account on the year in dramatic fashion, heading home the winner in the 93rd minute off of New England Revolution loanee Ben Reveno’s cross.
On the other end, Hartford are still in search of their first win of 2022, coming off of a 1-1 draw in Colorado that followed a 5-2 season-opening defeat at Monterey Bay FC.
Following a first half in Colorado that featured outstanding defensive play with only three combined shots on target through 45 minutes for either side, Hartford eventually took the lead in the 70th minute. Prince Saydee’s touch past the defender allowed him to swing a cross across the face of goal and Elvis Amoh capitalized from point-blank range against his former club to give the visitors the 1-0 advantage. The lead would last up until the 88th minute, when Hartford’s resolute defense was finally cracked, preventing the Green and Blue from taking home their first three points of the season ahead of their home opener.
“This team showed a little bit more who we are, a little bit more who we were in the preseason, which is a pretty solid team in the back,” Hartford head coach Tab Ramos said after the game. “We were really disappointed in particular with goals that were given up in the first game, so I think now we can feel the team is making progress and we’re starting to roll.”
The Green and Blue have historically performed well in front of their home fans, having won three of their last four at Trinity Health Stadium to close out 2022. In four seasons, they are 2-1-1 in home openers.
“We’re really excited to be home, finally,” Ramos said. “We’ve been on the road for so long, through preseason and all that stuff, we haven’t had a chance to play a game at home so we’re excited about that. We know the fans will be there, I know the players are excited about it…we're ready to go.”
Hartford will come into Saturday’s game slightly shorthanded, with Tristan Hodge (Trinidad and Tobago) and Kyle Edwards (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) both receiving call-ups to their respective national teams for this month’s set of Concacaf Nations League fixtures. In Friday’s 4-1 defeat against Nicaragua, Edwards notched the lone goal for his nation from the penalty spot in the 18th minute.
Hartford will also be without Andre Lewis, who went down in the late stages of the draw in Colorado with a head injury and had to be stretchered off the field. Lewis started both games this season for Hartford and scored eight goals as a regular starter in the midfield for Hartford in 2022.
Hartford’s home opener will also feature new members of the team in the broadcast booth. Former long-time University of Connecticut play-by-play broadcaster Joe D’Ambrosio and ESPN’s Mark Donaldson are set to make their debut behind the mics in tomorrow’s home opener, with the pair slated to call all of Hartford’s home matches in 2023 as an expansion of the club’s partnership with Powerstation Events, the producer for Hartford Athletic home broadcasts.
D’Ambrosio spent 26 years calling UConn football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and hockey. He became the first-ever broadcaster to cover both the Men’s and Women’s Basketball National Championships in 2004 and has been named the Connecticut Sportscaster of the year a record nine times by the National Sports Media Association.
Donaldson has years of experience broadcasting international soccer, having worked as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s coverage of La Liga Serie A, the 2016 and 2020 Euros, and the 2014 World Cup. Donaldson also has experience calling Major League Baseball, Golf, and the four professional tennis Grand Slams.
Finally, Saturday’s game will feature the debut of both Hartford’s brand-new 2023 home kit, “The Capitol Kit”, and their just-released warm-up kits, both of which will be available for purchase at Saturday’s game.
The forecast calls for rainy, dreary conditions on Saturday, but that is not likely to stop the Hartford faithful for showing up in numbers.
“We’re all excited and anxious to get going, playing here at home,” Hartford goalkeeper Richard Sánchez said this week. “We’re waiting for all our people to come out and support, and [to] give them a good performance.”
Kickoff for Hartford’s 2023 home opener is set for 2 p.m. on WCTX MyTV9 and ESPN+.