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Hartford Athletic Training Report: Amoh Nearing Return from Injury, Ramos Reflects on "Weak" Start in Phoenix
"So far, the results have not been good enough. We've been right there, we've lost a lot of points in the last ten minutes of games." - Tab Ramos ahead of Hartford's clash with Loudoun United
With four trips out west and six total road games already under their belt through the opening nine weeks of the USL Championship season, Hartford Athletic will return to Trinity Health Stadium for seven of their next nine games.
After yet another tough 3-1 loss in Phoenix last week, the home stretch represents a valuable opportunity to pick up steam for Hartford following four straight losses and only one win through their opening nine fixtures.
“I think we have the difficult part of our schedule, at least as far as road games are concerned, we have them all out of the way,” head coach Tab Ramos said. “At the end of the day, we also have to do well at home. We already lost two games at home that we weren’t expecting to lose. I think as we get our roster a little bit stronger, I think we’ll be able to compete a little bit better at home. It’s certainly something that where now we don’t have to deal with all the travel and that’s gonna help the player’s legs.”
“It’s not easy on the body, obviously with the different time zones and the travel and the flying and things like that, it’s always a quick turnover,” Hartford Captain Niall Logue added. “We’re excited to be back home, we’ve only had three home games, so to have three on the bounce is definitely exciting.”
According to Ramos, the next few weeks will finally give a squad that has seen it’s key contributors sidelined with injuries a chance to recover. Andre Lewis is nearing a full recovery following his return to the field in April, Kembo Kibato is set to return within the next month, and depending on fitness through the next two days of training, Hartford could see one of their most dangerous goalscoring threats in Elvis Amoh make a return to the field as soon as this weekend. The forward left the field with a thigh injury in the second half of Hartford’s 3-2 loss in Charleston in April, and hasn't appeared since.
“So far, the results have not been good enough,” Ramos said. “We’ve been right there, we’ve lost a lot of points in the last ten minutes of games, and that’s something that we’ve been looking at. To be fair, our roster has been a little short with all the injuries that we’ve had, so we’re actively looking to potentially bring in other guys as well to make our roster a little bit stronger. We’ve struggled with that…I think we’re the team with the least amount of substitutions in games and I think it’s because we have to count a lot on the eleven guys that we have on the field.”
Hartford were also strengthened by the return of Logue in the back line on Saturday, who found his way back into the starting XI after being kept out with an injury for two games.
“I’m the type of person that wants to play every game, that’s what I was brought here to do,” Logue said. “The last two games…it was a nightmare, I didn’t know where to put all that energy…I feel great, I feel good, I feel healthy.”
Last time out on the road, Hartford’s loss against Phoenix saw the Green and Blue sit back on the defensive end of the ball for a vast majority of the 90 minutes in what ended up being a 3-1 loss. Ramos said this was part of the game plan that he felt worked well despite the result.
“We knew it was gonna be difficult in Phoenix, they have a fast team, very athletic, they attack quickly,” Ramos said. “Playing in about 95 degree weather, we knew it was gonna be difficult, so we planned on allowing them play down the sidelines and not giving them anything down the middle. It’s something that I think we accomplished pretty well.”
Despite this, a lackluster first 20 minutes of the game featured three yellow cards issued to Hartford, an early defensive switch, and a goal conceded inside six minutes.
“I was disappointed with the way we started the game, I thought the first 10 minutes were really weak for us,” Ramos said. “We had to make a change immediately. I think the change worked out well, I think we got back into the game.”
With the game knotted at one with 20 minutes to play, Tab Ramos once again looked towards his bench, choosing to strengthen the attack rather than double down on defense. The goal was simple: come home with three points, not one.
“We felt like we could go for the win,” Ramos said. “We chose Danny Barrera to come in the game, obviously if we were looking just for a tie I could’ve selected a center-back or a defender to try to tie the game, but we felt like we had them pretty well-contained and we could win, so we put Danny Barrera in.”
With the game in the balance late in the second half, the decisive goal ultimately came through a costly mistake from Matt Sheldon in the midfield. His slip-up allowed Carlos Harvey to steal the ball in behind the defense and convert on a one-on-one chance against Richard Sánchez in net.
“It took us awhile to hang in there with them, I think we had Phoenix at a moment where they were frustrated, and that’s why we felt putting Danny in the game,” Ramos said. “Danny would be able to make that pass that I think Andre [Lewis] wasn't able to do. We really felt like we could win the game in the last 20 minutes, unfortunately these kinds of mistakes happen maybe once in a lifetime…we always have to say that whatever mistake any player makes is a team mistake, and we have to move on.”
Ramos’s side will move on to begin a three-game home stretch on Saturday against a familiar opponent in Loudoun United. Saturday will be the 13th all-time meeting between the two squads, more meetings with an opponent for Hartford than any other team.
The Green and Blue hold a dominant 10-1-1 record all-time against Loudoun, with their only loss coming on the road last season in a 3-0 loss. Hartford have never lost to Loudoun at home, outscoring them 27-10 all-time previous to last season’s loss. However, none of that matters to Tab Ramos.
“We’re not worried about the history or the past, we’re looking into the future and hopefully we start with a win,” Ramos said.
Kickoff from Trinity Health Stadium on Saturday is set for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+ and WCTX MyTV9.