The Hartford Athletic soccer team gave up two goals in the first 15 minutes of Saturday night’s USL Championship match at Dillon Stadium against Philadelphia Union II.
But the Athletic didn’t panic. They simply got to work. Hartford scored two goals in the next 20 minutes and got the game-winning goal from Ever Guzman early in the second half to remain undefeated with a 3-2 win over Philadelphia.
Hartford, which was 0-8-1 in their first nine games in their inaugural season a year ago, are 3-0 and lead Group F in the USL’s Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh is second (2-1) with six points with the New York Red Bulls II third at 1-2 with three points.
“In any game, mistakes will happen,” Hartford team captain Danny Barrera said. “It was unfortunate it happened to the back line (players) and it was unfortunate it happened in the first 20 minutes. They were unlucky errors that they capitalized on.”
Hartford coach Radhi Jaidi said, “They were individual mistakes. In general, I am positive about the resiliency of this team to come back from being two goals down. We created more scoring opportunities. With a little more focus and concentration, we could (convert on) more opportunities.”
Philadelphia (0-3-1) took an early 1-0 lead just three minutes into the game when a pass was misplaced by the Athletic defense and Yomi Scintu converted from the middle of the penalty area.
The visitors made it 2-0 with 16 minutes gone in the game when Danny Flores slipped a pass through the Hartford defense to Axel Piczao, who quickly rapped it past Athletic goalie Parfait Mandanda for a two-goal lead.
Barrera made things happen for Hartford from his midfield position with a pair of assists. Barrera made a great feed into the penalty area to Gabriel Torres, who slowed the ball by tapping it slightly into the air and then ripping it into the net to cut the lead to one goal with 39 minutes gone in the game.
Mads Jørgensen found himself wide open and with the ball about 22 yards away and rifled a shot into the net to tie the game with about minute left in the first half to tie the game at 2-2. Philadelphia simply cleared the ball down the middle right to Jørgensen, who wasn’t covered and he pounced on the ball.
Guzman scored with about nine minutes gone in the second half to give Hartford a 3-2 lead. Guzman took a nice feed in the penalty area from Barrera and blasted a shot into the net. It was his second goal of the season for Hartford.
Philadelphia kept pressure on Hartford in the second half but the Athletic were able to secure the victory. Hartford outshot Philadelphia, 17-8 and put seven shots on net.
“I am very happy we got three (wins) out of three (games),” Jaidi said. “It’s just the start. I am thinking of our performance on the pitch and how we can improve in many aspects.”
The fans had another reason to cheer in the final minutes as Windham High graduate Alfonso Vasquez made his professional debut in the 88th minute. He played the final two minutes of regulation and about seven minutes of extra time. “It felt unreal,” he said. “But in my head, I knew it was happening.”
Vasquez graduated from Windham High in June and scored the most goals in Connecticut high school history (149). He had 55 last fall for the Whippets.
Hartford 3, Philadelphia 2
Philadelphia (0-3-1) 2 0 — 2
Hartford (3-0) 2 1 — 3
Goals: Yomi Scintu (P), Axel Picazo (P), Gabriel Torres (H), Mads Jorgensen (H), Ever Guzman (H); Assists: Danny Flores (P), Danny Barrera (H) 2; Saves: Parfait Mandanda (H) 1, Ben Martino (P) 4, Shots: Hartford 17-8; Shots on target: Hartford, 7-3; Corners: Hartford, 5-4; Possession: Hartford 54½ to 45½