• El Dulce

FT: Hartford Athletic 2 Loudoun United 1 - DON'T LET US GET HOT!

WE HAVIN FUN YET FOLKS? Wooooooooohhhhh!!!!! On a stiflingly hot Sunday afternoon YOUR Hartford Athletic went down to DC and came away with not 1, not 2, but 3 POINTS. The lads now have two wins on the trot and are the hottest team in the USL (don't fact check that). How did it happen? Where to even start. How about first with the lineup?

The boys in white came out looking much like they did midweek when they captured the club's first ever victory in Open Cup play against NY Cosmos. Slight changes in the midfield that included Colin Martin slotting in for the graduating Nicky Downs (Yale btw, NBD) and Seb Dalgaard starting in place of Giuseppe Gentile were the only changes to what included 9 of the 11 starters from Tuesday's win.

The first half was a tale of runs. The first 15 minutes included a whole lot of a Loudoun possession and even more Athletic defending, as the lads stayed composed and compact seeing away all of Loudoun's advances. This period included solid play from the back 4, particularly Kyle Curinga and Sem De Wit, who both have settled nicely into their roles at the back. Once the game settled though, Hartford started to play a lot more like a squad that looked to move up the table.

Good passing between the central midfielders and the wingers, including a few menacing runs from all-heart Harry Swartz helped Hartford control minutes 15-30 and settled the away squad into what became a fairly even first 45 minutes. A couple of long distances chances from Dalgaard and some seeking long balls from Ray Lee gave Athletic the better of the first half chances, however, when all was said and done after the first frame, the two teams appeared to be evenly matched nearly splitting possession and chances on net.

All that was missing for Hartford in the first half was something or someone clinical in front of goal to help the lads get on the scoresheet. We got just what we needed in the second half from veteran USL star Jose Angulo.

In the second half, you could feel Hartford's momentum building as they continued to pressure down the wings and use good possession to generate a few clear cut chances on Loudoun's net. The first 15 minutes of the second half were solid from Athletic and culminated with a spectacular near goal from Angulo on one of the cleanest bicycle kicks you'll ever see. Like a shark who smells blood, Angulo was just getting warmed up.

In the 59th minute, the breakthrough came for our boys in white. Young Boy Mads Jorgenson dispossessed Loudoun in the midfield and ran hard into the home squad's final third before slotting a nice through ball to a charging Angulo. Angulo possessed the pass and tried to thread Loudoun's keeper who made a nice initial save, but couldn't catch up to Angulo as he corralled the rebound and cleanly slotted the ball into the right side netting for Hartford's first goal on the day. 1-0 to the good guys.

After the goal, like before, Hartford continued to play on the front foot and control the ball. Possession was solid and the passing was strong until...well...catastrophe happened.

A 64th minute, seemingly routine, back pass from Ray Lee to Nikolaj Lyngo combined with a poor touch from Lyngo to force the Hartford D-man to play an inexcusable rocketed back touch towards Athletic's keeper Jacob Lissek and goal. Lissek, who maybe should've given up the free kick and handled the ball, tried his best to slide kick the ball out of play, but the pass had too much pace and went behind Lissek for a disastrous own goal. This was totally inexcusable and against the run of play, but once again underscored Lyngo's struggles with the ball at his feet while under pressure. There was a Loudoun forward closing in on Lyngo, but boy should he have done better to see off the hairy situation. Instead, he panicked as he has too often this season, and played a ludicrous ball that Lissek could do really nothing with. 1-1.

The gut punch of an own goal like that was felt immediately as Hartford appeared less composed and totally out of sorts for a few minutes. Loudoun pushed forward and had some decent runs into the box, but to Lyngo's and the other defenders' credit the defense stood tall and regained the game for Hartford.

Once things settled back down a bit, Hartford went again on the attack right away. In the 68th minute, a beautiful flick down the left side by Dalgaard gave the speedy winger some space to operate and with this space the Dane played a nice low ball to the top of the 18-yard box in the direction of goal-scorer Angulo. Jose the Great, feeling himself at this point, took down the pass turned and FIRED TOP SHELF to put the good guys back on top. What a response, and what an individual effort, and just like that the game was once gain in Hartford's grasp.

The following 20 minutes featured perhaps the best run of possession play we've seen from Hartford all year. Giuseppe Gentile came on to replace Dalgaard and provided needed energy and pace to help Hartford defend and pass around Loudoun. Buoyed by midfielder Colin Martin's distribution and strength in the midfield, Hartford controlled the rest of the game as Loudoun threw numbers forward to try to get the equalizer. By the time stoppage time rolled around, Hartford was calmly defending the pressuring home side and playing the ball forward easily into space helping salt away the melting clock. Loudoun never had another good chance, and after 96 minutes gone, the referee blew the whistle on Hartford's FIRST EVER league win.

You cannot perform much better on the road than Hartford did today. Athletic controlled most of the game, and barring the own goal lunacy, was dominant in the second half. We finally got to see the Jose Angulo we all expected to see this season, as the wing backs, wingers, Woj, and central midfielders all did a masterful job spraying passes around the field to help set up our star target man. For Angulo it was a much needed brace and his 49th and 50th career goals in USL's top division. For the club, it was an even more needed performance of grit, tenacity, will, and quality that has been lacking all year. 2-1 to Hartford, 3 points to Hartford, jell-o shots to Hartford (H/T the 2nd Regiment.)

That's two wins in a row folks, that's what we call a winning streak! With 4 games coming up at home, what a time to be a Hartford Athletic fan. The sky is the limit for this club if they continue to play like they've played the last two times out. I AM JACKED UP 8 POINTS OUT OF PLAYOFFS!

Final: Hartford Athletic 2 Loudoun United 1

Cue the music!!!!!!!

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