Hartford Athletic looks to rebound from last weekend’s heartbreaking home defeat as it travels to Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday evening. Here’s what you need to know:
HARTFORD ATHLETIC at BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC
Date: Saturday, June 22
Time: 8:00 PM ET
Location: BBVA Compass Field, Birmingham, AL
Local TV: None
WHERE TO WATCH:
Thomas Hooker Brewery at Colt, 140 Huyshope Ave., Hartford
City Steam Brewery and Cafe, 942 Main St., Hartford
2nd Bridge Brewing Co., 642 Hilliard St., Manchester
Lakeview Restaurant & Bar, 50 Lake St., Coventry
V's Trattoria, 280 Trumbull St, Hartford, CT 06103
LAST TIME OUT:
Hartford Athletic fell against top-three side Nashville SC on Sunday afternoon, suffering a crushing, 3-2 defeat in the friendly confines of Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. Nashville broke the initial deadlock in the 31st minute; Ropapa Mensah scooped up an errant pass from Hartford goalkeeper Frederik Due and played it across for teammate Daniel Ríos, who calmly placed his shot in the back of the net. Hartford replied swiftly and decisively, taking control of the match in the following 30 minutes. Winger Sebastian Dalgaard produced the equalizer in the 32nd, poking his head at Raymond Lee’s diagonal cross and driving the ball past Nashville Goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Defender Sem de Wit got the better of Pickens 26 minutes later, as his looping header soared into the side netting. However, Nashville would not be denied in the final third of the match, grabbing two goals to sneak out of Hartford with a victory. Their equalizer came in the 62nd minute, when Lebo Moloto cleaned up a mess in the Hartford penalty area by slotting his rebound shot past Due. Then, substitute Cameron Lancaster broke Hartford hearts with an astonishing bar-down screamer from about 20 yards, giving Nashville a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Hartford Athletic – Sem de Wit, D
de Wit is arguably Hartford’s most consistent defender, serving as a true leader in his center back role. The young Dutchman wards off opposition attacks in composed fashion, and his contributions have undoubtedly help Athletic ascend the Eastern Conference standings. The 23-year old is among the team leaders in interceptions (27, T-1st) and tackles won (15, 4th) and total duels won (80, 2nd), while also leading the squad in aerial duels won (47). If de Wit can log a solid performance on Saturday, Birmingham will struggle to hit the back of the net.
Birmingham Legion FC – Matt Van Oekel, GK
Birmingham has been struggling at the back recently, conceding 10 goals in its last 4 matches (all losses). Van Oekel has done his best to compensate for his side’s porous defensive line, but he has still conceded 19 goals in 9 appearances and currently posts a 61.2% save rate. The 32-year old is battling with Trevor Spangenberg for the starting job, and he will undoubtedly look to impress coach Tom Soehn if he gets the nod on Saturday night. If Hartford wants to bounce back this weekend, it must pepper the Birmingham goal and hope Van Oekel’s struggles persist.
ABOUT THE OPPONENT:
Birmingham Legion FC sits in 14th in the Eastern Conference standings, four points off playoff pace and three points ahead of Hartford Athletic. However, Coach Soehn’s side have struggled mightily of late, failing to win any of its last nine USL Championship matches, dropping its last five games (all competitions), and obtaining only two points in that span. After exploding for 6 goals in its first 4 league contests, the Legion attack has cooled off considerably, hitting the back of the net only 5 times since April 13th and tumbling down to the bottom of the USL Championship goal standings.
Updates on the match will be provided via Twitter at @hfdathletic or by following #BHMvHFD