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PREVIEW: Eyes On The Prize

By Hartford Athletic, 10/03/20, 2:30PM EDT

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It's all on the line on Sunday night when Hartford Athletic takes on New York Red Bulls II with a chance to finish the season at the Top of Group F. With a Pittsburgh win on Saturday night, the Boys in Green must claim three points to top the Group. A top of the table finish means a home playoff game next weekend (you can sign up for a playoff wait list here), and what would be sweeter than the first playoff game in Club history at Dillon?

HARTFORD ATHLETIC (10-3-2) at NEW YORK RED BULLS II (5-10-0)

Date: Sunday, October 4th

Time: 7:00 PM ET

Location: MSU Soccer Park, Montclair, NJ

Local TV: WCTX MyTV9

Streaming: hartfordathletic.com/watch or ESPN+

International Viewers: YouTube

LAST TIME OUT:

Hartford took down Philadelphia Union II 3-2 on Wednesday night. In the 7th minute, Alex Dixon was taken down by the keeper after his first touch in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Mads Jørgensen stepped up and calmly dispatched his penalty past the Union ll keeper to put Hartford one-nil up! In the 14th minute, Jørgensen swung in a corner and the flicked on header found the boot of Alex Lara who tapped in his first Athletic goal to make it two-nil! Union II came storming back to tie the game at 2, but in the 90th minute, Danny Barrera scored one of the most bizarre goals of the USL season and The Immaculate Deflection was born. When the clock struck 90’, the Union ll keeper picked up the ball in his box. Barrera stood on the edge of the box, stuck out his leg, and deflected the keeper’s throw in the air and into the empty net to make it three to two Athletic! 

THE IMMACULATE DEFLECTION:

Danny Barrera’s incredible goal on Wednesday night caught the eye of just about the entire world. You could find Barrera at number 2 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays as well as BBC Sports, Barstool Sports, 433 and many others. “I do weird stuff like that at practice all the time,” Barrera said on the Nutmeg State podcast on Thursday. “Even at home, I don’t know how many diapers I’ve ninja kicked or tried to ninja kick into the trash and finally I got one in.” Barrera is a father of 3 and is expecting a fourth child.

DEFENSE TO OFFENSE:

In 2019, Hartford Athletic was known for scoring goals from outside the box. The script has flipped in 2020. 24 of the 29 Hartford goals this season have come inside the box. Much of that comes from Head Coach Radhi Jaidi’s strategy which often targets larger center backs in the box on set pieces. Defenders Sam Strong, Matheus Silva, Kevin Politz, and Alex Lara have all scored off of set pieces this season. Lara scored his first professional goal on Wednesday running free to the far post on a corner kick, beautifully delivered by Mads Jørgensen.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Hartford Athletic, Alex Lara, D #2: 

Matheus Silva will miss this match for a Yellow Card accumulation suspension and it's likely that Alex Lara will start in his place. The right-footed Lara may be asked to play the left center back position in  Radhi Jaïdi's typical 3 center back system. It won't be the first time he's asked to do this, but this particular match provides a bit more pressure and with a Red Bulls attack that has proven at times that they can be explosive, it will be more important than ever this year that the back line is in top form.

New York Red Bulls II, Jake LaCava, F #64:

In a 3-1 win the last time these two teams met, LaCava made the play that put RBII on the board putting himself in an advantageous position to fire one past Parfait Mandanda. LaCava is second on the squad with five goals this season and third with three assists. He makes plays and should certainly be a focal point of the Hartford Athletic back line. 

ABOUT THE OPPONENT:

2020 will be the first year since 2015 that New York Red Bulls II will miss the postseason. RBII have a record of 5-10-0 but have played Hartford close in all three matches this season. Like Athletic, New York will come in on short rest having played a neutral site match in Virginia against North Carolina FC on Wednesday night. The big question is which Red Bulls II attack we’ll see on Sunday. The one that scored 8 goals in two matches against Atlanta United 2 and Philadelphia Union II, or the one that was shut out against NCFC a few days ago?

FOLLOW ONLINE: 

Can’t watch? Stay in touch with our live commentary @hfdathletic or by following #NYvHFD

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