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Beverly Makangila Opens Professional Account in Style
The 23-year-old's first career goal came at a crucial time for Hartford, a 30-yard screamer that ignited a comeback win.
Down 1-0 with less than a half an hour to play, Hartford Athletic once again looked doomed to an all-too-familiar fate at home against New Mexico United on Saturday.
After going behind in a first half that head coach Omid Namazi said looked “flat” and lacked energy, the Green and Blue needed something special to come from behind and get a result at home. And that’s exactly what they got.
Enter Beverly Makangila.
A preseason signing from Western Conference side Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Makangila’s 2023 season with Hartford had been derailed by injury, causing him to have seen only 30 minutes of action since the beginning of April leading up to Saturday’s fixture. When he entered in the 63rd minute, it looked to be merely a shuffle of the deck in the attack for Namazi, and it was one that ended up paying off immensely.
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In the 69th minute — just six minutes after coming on — Makangila found himself in open space, ripping a shot from almost 30 yards out. It was a rocket off of his right foot that curled beyond the outstretched glove of Alexandros Tambakis and into the right side netting to level the game.
It was a moment fans at Trinity Health Stadium had been waiting for all season. Out of seemingly nothing, Hartford was level, with all of the momentum on their side.
The Green and Blue would go on to take all three points when Antoine Hoppenot scored the go-ahead goal just three minutes later, but it was Makangila’s breathtaking goal that stole the show. It was his first goal as a professional after four seasons in the USL Championship, and the strike from distance even made Sunday morning’s SportsCenter top 10.
“He’s been getting better and better,” Hartford Atheltic head coach Omid Namazi said postgame. “Obviously he missed the preseason, he came in late and he was never up to speed, but he’s just lately getting back into the groove and becoming the player that we saw in Colorado, and that’s why we picked him up. I’m very, very happy for him.”
Hoppenot, who scored the go-ahead goal just minutes later, shared a similar enthusiasm for his teammate.
“He’s worked really hard all year, and sometimes you don’t get to play,” Hoppenot stated. “Sometimes it’s really hard mentally to continue going. He’s one of those guys, you can tell he’s mentally tough…You could tell what it meant to him. He had that stone face, but you could tell on the inside that he was really happy. The whole locker room was happy for him."
For Makangila, not only was it a highlight of his personal career, but an immediate contender for Hartord’s goal of the year. In front of a sold-out crowd that had become accustomed to late goals going against them in heartbreaking fashion, the final 20 minutes finally went their way and it all started with the most unlikely of heroes.