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Assessing The 90: Unlikely Hero Makangila Helps Hartford Come From Behind
The Green and Blue powered their back from behind in dramatic fashion on Saturday for their second win of the year at Trinity Health Stadium.
So often this season for Hartford Athletic, late goals have gone against them in heartbreaking fashion. On Saturday, however, it was the other way around.
The Green and Blue began their August home stand in a dramatic way, clawing their way back from behind to claim their second home win of the year over New Mexico United in front of a packed Trinity Health Stadium.
Leading the three-man back line in Hartford head coach Omid Namazi’s starting XI was newly-signed center-back Modesto Méndez, joined alongside Connor McGlynn and Triston Hodge. Edgardo Rito and Kembo Kibato filled out the wingback roles, while Joe Rice got the nod between the sticks after earning save of the week honors in last week’s 5-2 loss to San Antonio FC.
Elsewhere, Juan Pablo Torres, Danny Barrera and Andre Lewis anchored the midfield while Antoine Hoppenot and Prince Saydee led the line in the attack.
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Hartford’s first real chance of an active opening 15 minutes came just three minutes in, when Hoppenot got on the end of a Barrera in-swinger from close range, sending a header just wide of the near post. Hoppenot did find the back of the net just two minutes later, tapping in a squared pass from Saydee at the top of the box, but the opening goal was denied by the offsides flag to keep the game scoreless.
Eventually, it was New Mexico who would open the scoring in the 13th minute, as poor set-piece defending once again came back to haunt Hartford. Failure to clear an initial opportunity off of a corner kick led to a pair of recycled crosses for New Mexico, before a deflected shot off the glove of Joe Rice found its way to Dominick Hernandez in the box. Chopping the ball out of the air with a cool right-footed finish, Hernandez’s shot bounced past the outreached glove of Rice and found the far side netting to give the visitors an advantage.
Hartford remained active in the attack following the opener, once again finding the back of the net through the feet of Hoppenot less than five minutes later. Unfortunately for the forward, his effort from the edge of the 18 was once again flagged offsides, denying the equalizer.
After a relatively uneventful 20 minutes following the early chances, the visitors once again came alive with just five minutes to play in the first half. Hartford failed to contain the quick passing buildup play of New Mexico, which resulted in Amando Moreno gliding across the top of the box with the ball before unleashing a shot and forcing a low save from Rice.
The goalkeeper had to recover quickly after pushing the initial effort back into the danger zone, swiping away Santi Moar’s rebound from close range to keep the deficit at one. The sharp double save accounted for two of the four stops Rice made in the first 45.
On the other end, Hartford’s best look at goal in the closing stages of the half came just two minutes later, when Kembo Kibato sent a looping cross into the head of Saydee, whose header from close range was sent just north of the crossbar as the score remained 1-0 through the conclusion of the half.
In total, Hartford was outshot 8-3 in the opening 45, with five of New Mexico’s shots finding the frame to keep Rice on his feet.
Despite exchanging another pair of early chances in the second half, both teams struggled to find the back of the net through the early stages of the second half. That was until the 69th minute, when the most unlikely of heroes in Beverly Makangila re-ignited a stagnant Hartford attack with his first goal of the year off the bench, unleashing a rocket into the right side netting from nearly 30 yards out to level the game at one.
From there, the Green and Blue took advantage of a major shift in momentum as Hoppenot found the back of the net just three minutes later. The move started when he got on the end of a searching ball over the top from Connor McGlynn in transition, sneaking the ball past an onrushing Alexandros Tambakis and into the back of the net to give Hartford the 2-1 lead from behind.
Despite New Mexico continuing to knock on the door in the final 20 minutes, Hartford was able to hang on to the narrow lead through the end of regulation, kept in it by a pair of saves from Rice in the late stages. Things would take an even more nervy turn for the Green and Blue late in regulation when Andre Lewis was shown a second yellow and consequently dismissed for a late challenge in the midfield with seven minutes of added time left to play.
Despite the setback, and a number of dangerous set piece opportunities, Hartford was able to hang on for the win with an inspired defensive performance in the final ten minutes for only their second win at home, and fourth on the year. Now, they will look to build on the win by stringing together two wins on the bounce for only the second time this season, hitting the road once again to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds next weekend before returning home for three straight games.
For now, though, Hartford fans can finally enjoy one of their biggest wins of the year at home.