Hartford Athletic moved to 2-0 on the season with a comfortable win over Loudoun United in their home opener. Goals from Kevin Politz, Harry Swartz and Tyreke Johnson completed the scoring for Hartford, while Elvis Amoh responded for Loudoun with a second half penalty kick.
Hartford coach Radhi Jaidi lined his team up in a 3-5-2 formation with two changes from the season opening win at New York Red Bulls II. Gabriel Torres replaced Johnson at left wingback, while Nicky Downs was drafted into central midfield in place of Mads Jorgensen.
Loudoun played a 4-2-3-1 system with Amoh leading the attack, flanked by wingers Massimo Ferrin and Christian Sorto. It was a return to New England for Loudoun goalkeeper Colin Miller, who played his college soccer with the Providence Friars.
Loudoun had a chance inside the opening minute when Sorto headed the ball on, and Ferrin fired a shot over the bar.
Hartford won a 2nd minute corner when a nice spell of possession ended in a Torres cross being deflected behind by Jacob Greene. Torres took the corner but his cross was too high and Loudoun worked it clear.
The hosts won another corner soon after when Daniel Barrera chipped a pass forward that Adam Lundegard knocked behind. This time Hartford made the corner count by taking a 3rd minute lead.
Torres sent in a low, inswinging corner and Politz, who had started his run on the goalkeeper, cut in front of the near post defender to glance a header home.
Hartford won an 8th minute corner when goalkeeper Miller placed a stray pass behind for a corner when under pressure from Alex Dixon. Barrera swung the corner to the back post, but Miller atoned for his error by saving Alex Davey’s header.
In the 10th minute, Loudoun winger Sorto split Downs and Conor McGlynn with a nice piece of skill on the right flank before firing over a low cross that evaded everyone.
The lively nature of the game continued when Dixon dropped deep for Hartford before playing in Harry Swartz down the right flank, Swartz swung in a cross that Barrera headed over the bar.
Central midfielder Downs lifted a ball over the top for Dixon in the 20th minute, but Miller came off his line quickly to save.
At the other end, Amoh fed Sorto on the edge of the penalty area, and the winger cut inside Torres before lifting his shot over the bar.
Loudoun had an even bigger chance soon after, when a one touch pass from Ferrin released Barrera, but Parfait Mandanda stayed big to make a good 1v1 save.
Hartford played themselves into pressure at the back in the 42nd minute, with pressure from Ferrin dispossessing Politz, before Amoh fired a shot well over the bar.
Striker Amoh received a yellow card in the 43rd minute for leaving a foot in on Hartford defender Matheus Silva by the sideline.
Hartford doubled their lead in the 45th minute, when some neat buildup play was capped by Barrera dinking a ball in behind for Swartz who tucked a lovely finish onto the far corner.
Hartford created one more chance before the interval, when Dixon dropped deep again before playing a long pass forward to Ever Guzman. The ball was worked wide left to Torres via Swartz, but the left wingback’s cross cleared everyone.
Striker Dixon was consistently involved in the Hartford buildup, while also showing threat in behind and pressing defensively in an all-round impressive performance.
Hartford coach Jaidi made a double substitution at the break, bringing on Arthur Rogers and Johnson for Downs and Guzman. Loudoun coach Ryan Martin responded by switching out Ferrin for Theodore Ku-DiPietro.
The home team started the second half on the front foot, just as they had finished the first. A long spell of possession ended in a Torres cross that Peabo Doue knocked behind to concede a corner at the back post. Torres took the corner but his cross was headed clear by Amoh.
Loudoun were showing calm on the ball and intent to build from the back throughout the game, but a lack of quality movement meant they lacked options to pass forward and failed to break the Hartford press time and again.
The impressive performance of Dixon continued, and the striker was played in behind down the left flank by Torres before his cross found Johnson who had his header saved by Miller.
Hartford stretched their lead out to 3-0 in the 55th minute with a quality finish from Johnson. Davey cleared the ball to the halfway line where Johnson collected the ball before driving into the penalty area, cutting inside Lundegard and curled an excellent shot into the bottom corner.
Loudoun responded immediately by winning a penalty kick in the 58th minute. Amoh exchanged passes with Michael Gamble before advancing into the penalty area and being nudged over by Davey. Amoh took the penalty himself and sent Mandanda the wrong way as he side footed home a good finish.
Hartford possessed well for long spells of this game, and another good passage of play saw McGlynn spray the ball wide to Swartz, who had his cross double ricochet out for a goal kick. Throughout this game, Hartford’s ability to possess and get bodies forward was proving far better than the previous week in the road win over Red Bulls II.
Loudoun made a double substitution in the 62nd minute, replacing Ku-DiPietro and Sorto with Tyler Gabarra and Ronald Fuentes.
Gabarra was making his professional debut, and it was another chapter in a strong soccer legacy. His mother Carin Jennings-Gabarra was an Olympic gold medalist and World Cup winner for the USA, while his father Jim played on the USA men’s national team.
Striker Dixon went into referee Adam Kilpatrick’s book in the 65th minute for a reckless foul on Brandon WIlliamson inside the center circle.
Jaidi made a double switch in the 66th minute, bringing on Alex Lara and Jorgensen in place of Davey and Barrera.
Hartford created a big chance in the 70th minute when Torres skipped past Fuentes before sending over a low cross that Dixon guided over the bar from six yards out.
The home team continued to have the upper hand, and Silva stepped forward with the ball in the 74th minute before firing a long range shot wide. Jorgensen found space minutes later for another long range shot but was also off target.
Gabarra was pushing on in attack for Loudoun after his introduction as a substitute, and won a corner after collecting a pass from Greene and having his cross blocked by Lara.
The corner from Fuentes was headed clear by Lara before Greene won a free kick when he was fouled by Rogers out wide. Amoh failed to get contact on the crossed free kick with a spectacular attempted bicycle kick and Swartz worked the ball clear. The pressure kept coming at the other end from Hartford and Johnson forced a sharp save from Miller with a shot from outside the area.
In the 87th minute, Jaidi made his final change by bringing on Aiden Mesias in place of the impressive Swartz.
Hartford won an 89th minute corner when Johnson chased a long ball into the corner and was challenged by Lundegard. Johnson took the corner himself, but his deep cross cleared everyone on the way out for a goal kick.
Loudoun defender Doue received a yellow card from referee Kilpatrick in stoppage time after bringing down Mesias 30 yards from goal. Miller parried Jorgensen’s shot from the free kick, before Dixon followed in and fired the rebound wide.
Late substitute Mesias was making his presence felt in the final stages, and had a penalty appeal turned down when he went down under a Nelson Martinez challenge in the area but no foul was given.
The final whistle blew and Hartford celebrated with the home fans after attaining a very promising start to the regular season, with two wins from their opening two games.
Hartford moved to 2-0 with an upcoming home game this weekend against Philadelphia Union II who have started their season in poor form. Jaidi will surely be looking to get three more points in the back with seemingly tougher challenges playing ahead on the schedule.
With four different goal scorers so far on the season and a number of impressive individual performances, Hartford will have been confident going into the weekend game.
Loudoun will have been disappointed with the result, but coach Martin would have been hearted by some good individual displays in the front three, as well as a promising professional debut from Gabarra.
3’ HAR Kevin Politz (Gabriel Torres) 1-0
45’ HAR Harry Swartz (Daniel Barrera) 2-0
55’ HAR Tyreke Johnson (Alex Davey) 3-0
58’ LOU Elvis Amoh PK 3-1
MAN OF THE MATCH
#11 CF Alex Dixon (Hartford Athletic) – An impressive all-round display from the striker, showing the ability to stretch Loudoun in behind, drop deep in buildup play and also pressing defensively. Better finishing would have seen him cap his performance with a goal or two, but displays like this show that it is surely just a matter of time before Dixon opens his scoring account for the season.
3: CF Alex Dixon – Man of the Match
2: RM Harry Swartz – Hard working display from the wingback was capped by a good goal just before halftime. Defended well and created width in the attack for Hartford throughout the game.
1: CD Alex Davey – Physically dominant performance from the defender on the ground and in the air, produced an assist to set up Johnson for the third goal.
3: RM Christian Sorto – Showed skill and flair to be a threat for Loudoun consistently all game. Linked well with center forward Amoh and will be a problem for fullbacks in the league all season.
2: CF Elvis Amoh – Won and scored the penalty for Loudoun’s only goal, showed quality on the ball and strong aerial ability. A scoring threat who will be a key factor if his team are to get results this season.
1: GK Colin Miller – Made a string of saves on a busy day for the former Providence College shot stopper. Playing behind a young and inexperienced defensive line, Miller will be a key figure for Loudoun in the remainder of their campaign.
HAR: Mandanda, Silva, Politz, Davey (Lara), Torres, Downs (Rogers), McGlynn, Barrera (Jorgensen), Swartz (Mesias), Guzman (Johnson), Dixon.
LOU: Miller, Doue, Lundegard, Wiedt, Greene, Williamson (Martinez), Garay, Gamble, Ferrin (Ku-DiPietro/Gabarra), Sorto (Fuentes), Amoh (Saravia).