HARTFORD, August 28 – For the second consecutive game and third time this season, the Hartford Athletic soccer team gave up two early goals.
In each of those other two games, Hartford rallied to earn points. The Athletic scored three unanswered goals to beat Philadelphia and earn three points while last week, Hartford scored two goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation to salvage a point in a 2-2 tie with Loudon United.
But on Friday night, Hartford was facing the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who had given up just eight goals in nine games. The Riverhounds shut out Hartford for the first time this year and handed the Athletic their first defeat in 2020 at Dillion Stadium in a 3-0 decision Friday night in USL Championship play.
Ryan James scored twice for Pittsburgh (6-3-1), which moves into sole possession of first place in Group F with 19 points. Hartford (5-2-1) is second with 16 points, 10 points ahead of third place New York Red Bulls II (2-6). It was the first multi-goal game of James’ career.
The players also stopped the game twice to protest racial injustice and raise awareness of police brutality against people of color.
The game was paused after seven minutes to acknowledge the seven bullets shot into the back of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by a police officer last Sunday.
The game was paused a second time with 8:46 gone in the first half to acknowledge the time that a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died while being arrested in May.
Both teams came together in a circle at midfield.
“It shows two teams coming together in solidarity,” Hartford’s Alex Dixon said afterwards. “There are things going on around the country that are bigger than soccer and we wanted to shed a little light on that and do our part. It was our little way of showing support and we will continue to do so and find a way bring awareness to the situation.”
James’ first goal came in the 11th minute, after the Hounds earned a free kick in the Hartford end of the field and passed the ball crisply until they found a wide-open James on the left field of the field.
Back Jordan Dover pushed the pace on the right wing and dribbled toward the right side of the penalty area. He then sent a cross into the center of the penalty area to Anthony Velarde, who set up James in the left side of the 18-yard box. James blasted the ensuing one-timer past Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda to put the Hounds on the board, 1-0.
Pittsburgh made it 2-0 when the Athletic couldn’t clear a punch save from Mandanda out of the penalty area in the 22nd minute. Robbie Mertz had a beautiful chip toward the goal that Mandanda punched out to his left and right to the feet of Danny Griffin, who was just outside the penalty area.
Tyree Johnson had no time to react because Griffin, who grew up in Wethersfield just a few miles away from Dillon Stadium, blasted the ball immediately toward the net and the ball was deflected off a player and into the net past a diving Mandana for a 2-0 lead.
Pittsburgh made it 3-0 in the 50th minute. After a Ropapa Mensah shot was sent away by Mandanda. Dover regained possession on the right side of the penalty area and sent a cross to James to the back post. James then sent a left-footed shot into the bottom-right corner, giving the Hounds a 3-0 lead. This beautiful goal earned the No. 10 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the night.
“It’s not the result we’re looking for its one game we will learn from this,” Dixon said. “It was a good test and we learned a lot.”
Hartford has two more games remaining with Pittsburgh with their next meeting on Saturday, September 12 in Pittsburgh. Before that, the Athletic will host Louden United (2-6-1) next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Dillon Stadium.
Two investigations clear Jaïdi: The United Soccer League said Wednesday it would not be pursuing disciplinary action against Hartford head coach Radhi Jaïdi. Following a thorough investigation, including interviews with 23 players and three Hartford staff members, the evidence did not support the initial allegations or a finding that Jaïdi violated league rules on personal conduct.
The incident that was investigated occurred during an August practice between Jaïdi and players on the team.
The Athletic also conducted an investigation into this incident after being made aware of allegations by the USL Players Association. “We take any such allegations very seriously,” the team said in a statement earlier this month. Upon receiving this information, Hartford Athletic immediately conducted a thorough review that included interviews from players and staff including coach Jaïdi. The investigation concluded that there was no evidence of misconduct.”
Pittsburgh 3, Hartford 0
Pittsburgh (6-3-1) 2 1 — 3
Hartford (5-2-1-) 0 0 — 0
Goals: Pittsburgh – Ryan James 11 (Anthony Velarde), Danny Griffin 22, Ryan James 50 (Jordan Dover); Saves: Parfait Mandanda (H) 1, Tomas Gomez (P) 3; Shots: Pittsburgh 10-9; Shots on target 4-4; Corner kicks 6-1, Hartford; Possession: Pittsburgh 57-42 percent