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PREVIEW: Hartford Athletic Kicks Off 2021 Season at NYRBII

By Hartford Athletic, 04/29/21, 12:15PM EDT

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Hartford Athletic soccer is BACK! New Head Coach Harry Watling is about to make his debut as first team manager with the new-look Hartford squad. Based on what we've seen in the preseason so far,  you can expect lots of pace, energy, and pressure from your Boys in Green when they take the pitch against rival New York Red Bulls II.

HARTFORD ATHLETIC (0-0-0) vs NEW YORK RED BULLS II (0-0-0)

Date: Friday, April 29th

Time: 7:00 PM ET

Location: MSU Soccer Park, Montclair, NJ

Local TV: WCTX MyTV9

Streaming: ESPN+

International Viewers: YouTube

LAST SEASON:

2020 was a banner year for Hartford Athletic. In just its second season, Hartford won regional Group F, won 11 matches, and finished with the second most points in the Eastern Conference. The road to success was filled with dramatic moments along the way including a 1-0 win at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC which gave Hartford the edge over the Hounds in the Group, a miracle win over Philadelphia Union II thanks to Danny Barrera's "Immaculate Deflection", and a thrilling 2-0 win over New York Red Bulls II in the regular season finale to lock up Group F. Hartford qualified for the playoffs for the first time in the Club's history, falling to Saint Louis FC 1-0 in front a maximum capacity crowd at Dillon Stadium. 

THREE SEASONS, THREE COACHES:

As Hartford Athletic enters its third season in the USL Championship, it will do so with its third Head Coach on the sidelines. 31-year-old Harry Watling will get his shot at being a first team Head Coach after stints in the academy systems at English clubs Chelsea, Millwall, and West Ham. He leads Hartford into Atlantic Division play after the club won regional Group F in the pandemic shortened 2020 regular season. “The pressure is a privilege,” Watling said. “We’re really enjoying playing that role. That role of having that success last season, but also being perceived as a little bit of an underdog. I think we’ll be the surprise package this year.”

YOUTH MOVEMENT:

Hartford Athletic fields one of the youngest rosters in the league and the youngest roster among non-MLS2 sides. Seventeen players signed are twenty-four years old or younger. Only Danny Barrera (31), Thomas Janjigian (26), Jeff Caldwell and Younes Boudadi (25) are older than 24. While this roster might be youthful, it is not without experience. Of the seventeen players age twenty-four or younger, eleven have at least one season of USL Championship experience. 

FROM THE GAFFER

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Hartford Athletic, Bradford Jamieson IV, F, #7: 

Bradford Jamieson IV was the prize signing in free agency for Head Coach Harry Watling and we'll see it on display on Friday night. Jamieson IV brings MLS experience and goal scoring ability to the Hartford attack. The Boys in Green have proven in the preseason their ability to score goals and the expectation is that Jamieson IV will be the focal point of the attack.

New York Red Bulls II, Omar Sowe, MF, #67:

Just 20 years old and already in his third season in the USL, Omar Sowe has made his mark on this RBII squad. Sowe was the leading scorer for RBII in 2020, scoring seven goals, including a hat trick against Philadelphia Union II. The Baby Bulls will look to Sowe as a leader on the pitch, especially with fellow midfielder Kyle Zajec out with a foot injury.

ABOUT THE OPPONENT:

For the second consecutive season, Hartford Athletic will open on the road against New York Red Bulls II. Last year, Hartford completed a four game sweep of the Baby Bulls, including a 1-0 win on the road in the season opener. John Wolyniec’s side missed the playoffs for the first time in 2020, but return key players Jake LaCava and Omar Sowe. The two of them will try to pace the RBII attack against a Hartford side that has shown some holes in the back in preseason. 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION 

Follow along on Twitter @hfdathletic and #NYvHFD

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