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Assessing The 90: Late Goals Continue To Haunt Hartford
Despite going up a goal and up a man early on, the Green and Blue could not see out the win on Saturday.
For Hartford Athletic, a 1-1 draw on the road against a talented Eastern Conference opponent initially does not seem like too bad of a result, especially after an impressive defensive showing last time out against Louisville.
However, a glance at the box score will tell a different story, one that reflects a common theme that has killed Hartford all season — conceding late goals.
Having gone 1-0 up early and playing a vast majority of the first half up a man, it all seemed to be going well for Hartford Athletic against Indy Eleven. That is, until a late 86th minute goal from the hosts prevented the Green and Blue from coming away with all three points.
The starting XI stayed consistent with the shifted lineup that Tab Ramos put out in last weekend’s 0-0 draw vs. Louisville City — Joe Rice made his second consecutive start in goal after recording the clean sheet, and Luke Merrill also kept his spot in the XI after a positive showing at wingback.
Elsewhere, Prince Saydee and Kyle Edwards returned to the lineup while Elvis Amoh was held out with a reported thigh injury, one sustained just two games after recovering from an injury that sidelined him for the better part of a month.
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That game got off to a nightmarish start for the hosts, who went down a man just six minutes into the contest after Adrian Diz Pe was shown red following a collision with Rice during a corner kick, catching the face of Niall Logue with a flailing leg on the way down.
Hartford would capitalize on the one-man advantage just six minutes later, as Edwards took advantage of a miscue in the midfield. Stripping the ball from Aodhan Quinn’s attempted pass across the midfield line, the forward found himself through on goal, executing a calm finish to the bottom-left corner from outside of the box to hand the visitors the 1-0 lead — one that they would take into the locker rooms.
A first look at the bench for Tab Ramos came five minutes before the halftime whistle, as captain Niall Logue departed the game. In his place came the debut of 2022 First Team All-USL defender Edgardo Rito for Hartford, who was acquired midweek in a trade deal with Oakland Roots SC for midfielder Jeciel Cedeño.
The second 45 got off to a rocky start for the visitors, who lost their man-up advantage just one minute in as Triston Hodge was shown a second yellow card for lashing out at Cam Lindley after being pulled off the ball in the midfield. The red was Hartford’s first such dismissal in all of 2023, despite leading the league in yellow-card offenders coming into the match.
Despite losing a man, Hartford would continue to test their former teammate Yannick Oettl between the Indy goalposts. One of their best chances would come in transition in the 64th minute, as Matt Sheldon pierced the defense with a pass that sent Antoine Hoppenot through on goal. Hoppenot’s shot was driven towards the bottom right corner, but Oettl got down quickly and was equal to the shot.
Indy would end up narrowly outshooting Hartford 15-14, eight of which came in the second half. The managed to find the frame with only two shots, one of which came in the 86th minute — but it was enough to find the back of the net.
A long throw-in found the feet of Sebastián Guenzatti in the box, who touched the ball to the feet of Jack Blake with his back to goal. Blake’s one-time left-footed shot was drilled past Rice and into the bottom-right corner, leveling the game at one with just four minutes to play.
The action did not end there, though. In the third minute of second-half stoppage time, Hoppenot touched the ball past Gustavo Rissi in his own half and found himself through on goal with no defenders in sight. Left with seemingly no other option and unable to catch Hoppenot, Rissi slid in from behind and took down the forward outside the box, and was quickly shown red for the denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity. Despite the opportunity, Juan Pablo Torres could not find the go-ahead goal from the free kick as both teams split the points after the final whistle.
Ultimately, a point on the road is never a terrible result — especially against a side with Indy Eleven’s talent. However, when you look at a Hartford team who has struggled all season to close out games, most notably giving up three game-deciding goals in stoppage time, questions have to be asked about their ability to close out games in the last 10 minutes. While the addition of Rito helped Hartford’s cause, it ultimately was not enough to prevent old issues from coming back to haunt the Green and Blue once again.
“I think a lot of the games we’ve had really good 80 minutes, but then [in] 5-10 minutes we mess up, a little slip up, a little mistake and all of a sudden [we’re] a goal down, two goals down,” were the exact words of Matt Sheldon when asked ahead of the match what the Hartford needed to do to get a result in Indy.
That reality seemed to be true once again today.
The good news for Hartford is that they will now return home for three straight home games to close out the month of June, beginning with a midweek clash with Detroit City FC on Wednesday night. Kickoff from Trinity Health Stadium is set for 7 p.m.