Discover more from The Blazing Musket
PREVIEW: Hartford Athletic Look to Keep Season Alive Against Pittsburgh Riverhounds
The Green and Blue will face the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Riverhounds for the second time in 11 days on Saturday, looking for only their second win in 12 meetings.
The victim of two straight shutouts in as many weeks, the make-or-break stretch of Hartford Athletic’s season has not been kind to them, to say the least.
In the second of a three-game home stretch to round out the month for the Green and Blue, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds will make the return trip to Hartford on Saturday for yet another first vs. last battle — just 11 days removed from their 2-0 win over Hartford at Highmark Stadium earlier in the month.
The Blazing Musket is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The 2-0 loss on August 12 followed up what fans thought may have been exactly what Hartford Athletic needed to re-ignite what was left of their season — a 2-1 win over Western Conference side New Mexico United. However, the Pittsburgh loss seemed to represent a return to reality for the Green and Blue, who have since been shutout and outscored 5-0 across their last two matches. Early goals have continued to spell trouble for a side who have conceded first in all of their last three matches, with both goals in the Pittsburgh loss coming in the first half.
The scoreless stretch has been indicative of Hartford’s attacking play of late — uninspired. The Green and Blue have put only four shots on target in their last two games (one against Pittsburgh), and have seriously struggled to test the opposition goal. On the other end, season-long defensive errors have continued to cost Hartford goals, something which has been a point of emphasis for head coach Omid Namazi throughout the year.
Following the loss against the Riverhounds, Namazi told The Blazing Musket that he did not feel “uncomfortable” playing Pittsburgh, and that he never felt like they were going to “hurt” them. For him, it was simply a case of Hartford once again creating their own problems defensively that cost them the game, and Pittsburgh converting their opportunities, restricting Hartford’s possession and generally being better on the ball.
“The Pittsburgh game was dissapointing,” Namazi said. “I don’t think we were that bad, but we made a couple of huge mistakes, as it has happened over the season, and it cost us the game. I felt our energy level, especially after the weather delay, and the way we approached the game was pretty good, they were just a little bit better than us.”
However, following a 3-0 loss against Miami on the weekend where Hartford’s problems on both ends of the ball only seemed to worsen, Hartford fans will be asking serious questions of their ability to pull a result in Wednesday’s midweek battle, during a stretch where the Green and Blue are struggling on just about every level.
On Pittsburgh’s end, their win over Hartford was their third straight, putting them atop the Eastern Conference on 47 points, three points clear of second-place Tampa Bay Rowdies with a tied-league leading 13 wins. While they are coming off a 1-0 loss to Western Conference opponent Orange County SC, their defensive record still sees them hold the most clean sheets in league play this year (12), while conceding the second least goals across the USL Championship (21).
Of the 13 wins for the Riverhounds on the year, only three have come on the road. They are 3-4-5 away from Highmark Stadium this season, with Wednesday’s trip to Trinity Health Stadium representing their second of three straight road matches. Two of only five losses on the year for Pittsburgh have also come in the last five games.
As for Hartford, they lead the league in with 54 goals conceded, more than double Pittsburgh’s total and eight goals clear of second-place Loudoun United. The Green and Blue sit second-to-last with only three clean sheets on the year, having garnered only four wins and a league-high 16 losses, further emphasizing the “first vs. last” nature on Wednesday’s matchup.
With any remaining hope of a late-season turnaround for the Green and Blue seemingly escaping their grasp, a result is an absolute must for a Hartford team who are all-but-mathematically out of the postseason picture.
The matchup is the 12th all-time meeting between the two Eastern Conference sides, with the only Hartford win in the series coming back in September 2020. Kickoff in Wednesday’s midweek Eastern Conference clash is set for 7 p.m. ET on WCTX MyTV9 and ESPN+.