History Is Made: Athletic down Cosmos 2-1
It's said that Thomas Edison failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb. When asked about his failures, Edison would say, "I didn't fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb," but he only needed one way to make it work.
In a lot of ways, Hartford Athletic are like Edison and that damn light bulb. Throughout their first 8 games on the road, and their first 2 games at home, it seemed like Athletic tried every which way to secure a win. They tried different players, different formations, different tactics, but in the end it all proved fruitless as they had not yet found their one way to win. On Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 that all changed. In their first ever open cup match, against famed NPSL side New York Cosmos, your Hartford Athletic WON 2-1.
Soak that in folks....YOUR Hartford Athletic won a game, a competitive game, against a side who, despite their league status, present as formidable a foe as we will see this season. I don't care what the haters, and the doubters, and the losers will say, this one was special.
So what was the one way that Athletic found/used to secure their first victory? Honestly, I'm not sure it was that extraordinary or that revolutionary. With open cup rules and injuries excluding some key players like Alex Dixon and Colin Maartin, Athletic really just brought a bit more quality, a bit more pace, a bit more consistency, and a whole lot more heart to the table Tuesday to defeat the Cosmos.
First, this is how we lined up:
With open cup rules leaving Colin Maartin out of the squad, it was no surprise to see the Danish youngster Mads Jorgensen in the center of the park with stalwart Nicky Downs. Additionally, injury to Alex Dixon and a day of rest for Mac Steeves shook up the front line as Jose Angulo started as target man with workhorse Woj Woj sitting behind him, and all-heart team Giuseppe Gentile and Harry Swartz on the wings. Swartz is an interesting case because, although he's been strong at right back this season, he is a forward by trade and having him on the wing certainly added the quality i mentioned early to the forward attacking group. Also, before we even get into the game I just want to say Woj should be starting every game. He's calm, cool, and collected up top. He controls the ball, distributes well, works his tail off getting back on D. There's a reason Woj is a fan favorite, and it's not his name.
The game kicked off and the experience of Cosmos showed early. The visitors controlled the first ten minutes of the game and had the better of the possession early on. This NY assault culminated with a great save by the Brick Wall Jacob Lissek in the 11th minute. It's getting par for the course to thank our lucky stars for Lissek every week, but my God did he have another stellar performance. You could tell right after this early save that HA woke up in a very positive way and started to take over for the next 5 minutes. And then, in the 16th minute, a moment of brilliance came when captain Ray Lee played a beautiful ball down the left flank to the hardest-worker-i've-ever-seen Giuseppe Gentile. Gentile corralled the through ball and played a low cross into the 18 yard box to a streaking Harry Swartz. Now at this moment, I'm not gunna lie to you, I was mad at Gentile for playing it hard and low thinking there were more targets going towards goal. However, Swartz was able to control the ball from Gentile, turn his man like a fool, and calmly slot away Hartford Athletic's first-ever open cup goal. Clinical. Last week I was left chanting, "we've got Harry at the back" while this week I was chanting "he's Harry Swartz he scores when he wants!" - What can't this Needham Rocket do? At any rate, Harry the Wizard's goal put the good guys on top and changed the whole complexion of the first half.
After the goal, Athletic started to push forward. Real chances from Nicky Downs and Jose Angulo followed, and then, a great run/acting job from Ray Lee won a dangerous free kick for the boys in White (hate open cup rules, we should've been in Green). From about 25 yards out, up stepped Danish young boy Mads Jorgensen to take the kick. Now look, I've been critical of Mads this season. When he's played in the middle of the field he's seemed, well, young. Hesitant to close down attackers, careless with the ball, slow to track back, the lot. But I just have to say, all of that hate evaporated with his absolute firecracker from this free kick. Mads went up and over the paltry two man wall, skipping his shot just before the goalkeeper to score an electric set piece goal. 2-0 to the good guys.
I'm going to interject here and just say something about the fans. This game was at Al Marzook stadium at the University Hartford....on a freaking Tuesday...and not only were the 19s and the 2nd regiment out in full force, they were LOUD. On the ESPN+ broadcast you could hear the supporters loud and proud all game, and after this Mads goal, hearing the trumpet blare brass bonanza...well let's just say I got a little wild.
Anyway, the second half was quite a different story than the first. I don't know if we were tired or conservative, but HA more or less parked the bus in the final 45. I didn't love this mostly because it allowed Cosmos to get on the ball in space and take some chances. Chances they would use to score 1 wonder goal.
In the 68th minute, the Cosmos forward Bardic scored an absolute wonder goal from distance going top cheese from about 30 yards out. There was nothing Lissek could do here, as Bardic had time and space to create his own moment of glory. The only thing left to do was to dig in for the final 20 minutes and survive.
If there's anything you know about this blog it's that we think our back four has been putrid this season. Well last night, in the last 20 minutes, I have to be honest, we played well in back. Sem de Vit and Nikolaj Lyngo had simply their best performances for Hartford, seeing away every cross, every through ball, and every final run. I was particularly pleased with Lyngo's performance as he seemed way more composed on the ball and tracking runners than the last few times out. After 20 minutes and 7 full minutes of extra time, Athletic saw off the Cosmos challenge and claimed victory.
That's one folks. Sure, Cosmos had 63% possession. Sure, Cosmos had 16 shots and 8 shots on goal. But who fucking cares? This season, thus far, Athletic have found 2,000 ways to lose a game. Last night, they found one way that worked and as history will tell you, that's all it takes.