HARTFORD, Sept. 23, 2020 – The hope of the Hartford Athletic to earn a USL championship playoff game by catching the Pittsburgh Greyhounds for the Group F title took a big hit on Wednesday night in a 1-1 tie with the Philadelphia Union II in USL Championship play at Dillon Stadium.
It was the final regular season game of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for the Athletic and 1,375 fans cheered on Hartford.
Throughout the season, the Athletic have had permission to play in front of 25 percent of the capacity of the facility. There hasn’t been any tailgating outside Dillon Stadium and everyone at the stadium had to wear a mask but they could cheer on their team.
“It’s been amazing even with the restrictions, COVID-19 and all of these protocols,” Hartford head coach Radhi Jaïdi said. “They’re making a lot of noise (and have provided) a lot of support. They’ve really supported us all season. We can’t thank them enough.”
To secure a home game in the playoffs, Hartford (8-3-2) needs to win their final three matches of the season to win the Group F title. That would include beating the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saturday night in Pennsylvania. The Riverhounds (10-3-1) have beaten Hartford in two previous matches this season by a combined score of 8-0.
If the Riverhounds win, they will clinch a home game in the first round of the USL Championship playoffs that begin in October.
Hartford played a strong first half and had multiple opportunities with seven corner kicks. They converted on the seventh one.
Sam Strong headed in second goal of the season in extra time in the waning minutes of the first half off a corner kick from Danny Barrera to give Hartford a 1-0 lead.
Hartford, in the midst of playing seven games in 23 days, made three substitutions to open the second half to provide players some rest. The Athletic nearly took a two-goal lead but youngster Alfonso Vasquez, the 18-year-old from Windham High, had a great opportunity but his one-time shot went just over the bar in the 66th minute.
Vasquez got his first start of his professional career in the game.
Philadelphia tied the game with 15 minutes remaining as Jack McGlynn got a low, hard shot past Hartford goalie Parfait Mandanda (three saves).
Hartford nearly won the game with two minutes remaining. Off a corner kick from Hartford’s Conor McGlynn, Strong deflected the ball into the net and the crowd erupted. But the goal was waived off because Strong collided with Union II goalie Matt Freese, drawing a yellow card.
Playoff race: Teams get three points for a win. If the Athletic win their final three games, they could finish with 35 points. Pittsburgh, which has two games remaining, has 31 points. A win over Philadelphia and loss to Hartford would give the Athletic a 35-34 edge for the Group F title.
Hartford 1, Philadelphia 1
Philadelphia (2-8-3) 0 1 — 1
Hartford (8-3-2) 1 0 — 1
Goals: Hartford: Sam Strong 45+2 (Danny Barrea); Philadelphia – Conor McGlynn 76 (Anthony Sorenson); Saves: Parfait Mandanda (H) 3, Matt Freese (P) 2; Shots on goal: 9-8, Hartford; Corner kicks: Hartford 7-7
USL Championship Group F
|New York Red Bulls II||13||4-9||25-28||12|
|Philadelphia Union II||13||2-8-3||12-35||9|
Three points for a win and one point for a tie. Teams will play 16 regular season games.
y-clinched playoff spot
Remaining Hartford schedule
Saturday, Sept. 26: At Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 30: At Philadelphia Union II
Sunday, October 4: at New York Red Bulls II