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Packed sports week in Hartford with Celtics vs. Knicks; Donovan finale with U.S. soccer; Thousands racing in NU Hartford Marathon

Landon Donovan will play his final game with the U.S. men's national team on Friday, Oct. 10 in East Hartford.

Landon Donovan will play his final game with the U.S. men’s national team on Friday night in East Hartford.

It will be a busy week of sports in greater Hartford and Connecticut. 

The NBA’s Boston Celtics will play a pair of exhibition games in the state against the New York Knicks. They two teams will play Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford and again on Saturday night, Oct. 11, at the Mohegan Sun Casino. 

U.S. soccer Landon Donovan will make his final appearance with the U.S. national team in a high-profile friendly match with Ecuador on Friday night, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. 

And on Saturday morning, thousands of runners are expected to be in Hartford for the 21st annual NU Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon. An estimated 18,000 runners are expected to compete in the marathon, half marathon (13.1 miles) and a 5K road race (3.1 miles) with the start and finish at Bushnell Park in Hartford. 

BASKETBALL: The Celtics will be playing four exhibition games this week beginning Monday in Boston against Philadelphia. Boston is looking to build off a dismal 25-57 record from a year ago – the third most losses in franchise history. 

Boston's Jeff Green (Photo courtesy Boston Celtics via Facebook)

Boston’s Jeff Green (Photo courtesy Boston Celtics via Facebook)

You won’t see former All-Star guard Rajon Rondo on the court for the Celtics. Rondo slipped his shower recently and broke a bone in his hand. He is out for eight to 10 weeks. But fans in Hartford will get to see guard Avery Bradley and rookie Marcus Smart, the No. 6 selection in last spring’s NBA draft out of Oklahoma State. 

Celtics forward Jeff Green, the leading scorer for the Celtics a year ago (16.9 points per game), is looking to take the next step this season as a more consistent, All-Star caliber player for second-year coach Brad Stevens. 

Boston will be facing New York, which opens its exhibition season in Wednesday’s game in Hartford. The Knicks, under first-year head coach Derek Fisher, will be installing its triangle offense made famous by Knicks’ president Phil Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles. 

All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony returns for the Knicks, having spurned free agent offers from Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles to re-sign with New York. Anthony averaged 27.6 points a game for New York (37-45) last year.

The Celtics played three to five home games a year in Hartford from 1975 through 1995. That arrangement ended when the new arena was completed in Boston to replace the old Boston Garden. The Celtics and Knicks played an exhibition game in Hartford in 2012 with the Knicks winning, 98-85 in overtime. 

SOCCER: More than 20,000 tickets have been sold for Friday night’s exhibition between the United States and Ecuador. The game begins at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN. 

Donovan announced in August that he would retire from soccer at the end of the Major League Soccer season. He holds several records for the U.S. national team, including most goals (57) and assists (58). He scored one of the most iconic goals in U.S. soccer history in the 2010 World Cup with his goal in the final seconds against Algeria to give the Americans a 1-0 victory and their first Group title since 1930. Donovan popped in a rebound of a shot by teammate Clint Dempsey.

Donovan played on three World Cup teams for the U.S. in 2002, 2006 and 2010. The decision by national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann to leave Donovan, 32, off the U.S. team that played in the World Cup this summer in Brazil was tremendously disappointing to Donovan and his supporters across the country. But his fans will get one last chance to cheer Donovan in his 157th international appearance. 

“The game in East Hartford with the farewell to Landon Donovan is very special, so we want to give him the most exciting event possible,” said Klinsmann. “Looking towards the October games against Ecuador and Honduras, we definitely look at the strongest squad possible. It’s exciting for the fans and for us. We look at bringing the players back that won in the Czech Republic, and also to mix them with the players here in MLS.” 

The game in East Hartford will be the first appearance by the Americans on native soil since the World Cup. The U.S. went 1-1-1 in pool play to reach the round of 16 at the World Cup, finishing behind eventual tournament champion Germany. The Americans were eliminated by Belgium in extra time. 

Tickets are on sale through ussoccer.com, by phone at 1-877-522-8499 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET only) and at the XL Center ticket office in downtown Hartford (Monday-Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Tickets will not be sold at Rentschler Field except on Friday. 

Thousands are expected to run Saturday at the NU Hartford Marathon. The start is at the capitol. (Photo courtesy of Hartford Marathon Foundation)

Thousands are expected to run Saturday at the NU Hartford Marathon. The start is at the capitol. (Photo courtesy of Hartford Marathon Foundation)

MARATHON: An estimated 18,000 runners will be competing in three events Saturday morning – the marathon (26.2 miles), half-marathon (13.1 miles) and the 5K road race (3.1 miles). Racing begins at 8 a.m. Events will be held in Bushnell Park throughout the morning for the runners, their families and fans. 

Fans should get to Hartford early to avoid closed roads for the race. There are several events open to the public beginning Thursday including a pasta dinner at the Hartford Club and a one-mile race on Friday night. 

According to New England Runner, the women’s marathon race has the potential to be an outstanding race. Erica Jesserman of Scarbough, ME, the champion here in Hartford in two of the last three years, is scheduled to run. She should be challenged by Hillary Dionne of Charleston, Mass., who won in 2013. On the men’s side, New England Runner said that Matt Pelletier of East Greenwich, R.I., could be a winner. He finished second and third the past two years in Hartford. Scott Mindel will be a challenger, too. 

Click on the link to read New England Runner’s look at the athletes expected to be in Hartford.

NU Hartford Marathon information

 Cool Running recommends the Hartford Marathon

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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