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Defensive mistakes hurt Hartford in 5-0 loss to Pittsburgh – The Collinsville Press
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Defensive mistakes hurt Hartford in 5-0 loss to Pittsburgh

Hartford goalie Parfait Mandanda grabs the ball in a crowd during Saturday’s USL Championship game in Pittsburgh. The Riverhounds beat Hartford, 5-0. (Chris Cowger photo courtesy USL Productions)

So far this season, the Hartford Athletic have shown they can’t compete with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. For the second time in 2020, Pittsburgh shutout Hartford with a 5-0 rout on Saturday night in USL Championship play at Highmark Stadium on the banks of the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh.

In two games, Pittsburgh has outscored Hartford 8-0 and with the win, the Riverhounds took a commanding lead in Group F with a 9-3-1 record, clinching a USL Championship playoff berth. The five-goal defeat is the worst in Hartford’s two years on the field. The Athletic lost five games by four goals a year ago.

It was the sixth shutout of the season for the Riverhounds, who have outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 36-8.

It was a rough day for the Hartford defense. Pittsburgh scored two goals as a result of collisions between Athletic goalie Parfait Mandanda with Hartford defenders, scored one goal on a penalty kick and another goal when Pittsburgh’s leading scorer Ropapah Mensah got free behind the Hartford defense and scored in a one-on-one situation with Mandanda.

Ryan James, who had two goals in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 win over the Athletic at Dillon Stadium two weeks ago, had another two goals on Saturday. Mensah, who has a team-leading six goals, had two goals for the Riverhounds while Anthony Velarde scored on a penalty kick late in the first half.

James gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead with 13 minutes gone in the game. Off a Pittsburgh corner kick, Hartford defender Kevin Politz got his head on the ball but it went back to James in the box. In one swift move, James settled the ball and fired it past Mandanda for his fourth goal of the season.

Hartford’s Danny Barrera tries to settle the ball during Saturday night’s USL Championship match in Pittsburgh. (Chris Cowger photo courtesy USL Productions)

In the 27th minute, Politz and Mandanda collided trying to chase down the loose ball and Mensah easily got around Politz and popped it into the net for a 2-0 lead.

A Pittsburgh defender was taken down in the penalty box with three minutes left in the first half and Anthony Velarde converted on the penalty kick for a 3-0 lead.

Early in the second half, Matheus Silva collided with Mandanda going for a loose ball allowing James an easy opportunity for the goal and a 4-0 lead. James has scored five goals this season and four have come against Hartford.

This game was the first of six games in 19 days for Hartford, now 6-3-1. The Athletic return to action on Wednesday night when come back to Dillon Stadium to host the New York Red Bulls II in the third of four games of the season between the two teams. The match kicks off at 7 p.m.

New York (4-7-2) is the closest rival to the Athletic for the second and final playoff spot out of Group F. The top two teams in each group will move onto the USL Championship playoffs in October.

Pittsburgh 5, Hartford 0
At Pittsburgh
Hartford (6-3-1)       0  0  — 0
Pittsburgh (9-3-1)    3  2  — 5
Goals: Pittsburgh: Ryan James 13th minute; Ropapah Mensah 27, Anthony Velarde 42 (penalty kick); James 47, Mensah 61 (Robbie Mertz); Saves: Danny Vitiello (P) 0, Parfait Mandanda (H) 0; Shots: Pittsburgh 10-1; Shots on target: Pittsburgh 5-0; Corners: Pittsburgh, 7-1

Group F

Team GP W-L-T Pts GF GA
y-Pittsburgh 13 9-3-1 28 36 8
Hartford 10 6-3-1 19 18 20
New York Red Bulls II 11 4-7-2 12 21 20
Loudoun United 11 1-7-3 6 10 23
Philadelphia Union II 10 1-7-2 5 8 11

Teams get three points for a win, one point for a tie
y-clinched playoff berth

Upcoming Hartford games
Wednesday, Sept. 16: NEW YORK RED BULLS II, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 20: at Philadelphia Union II
Wednesday, Sept. 23: PHILADELPHIA UNION II, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 26: at Pittsburgh
Wednesday, Sept. 30: at Philadelphia Union II
Sunday, Oct. 4: at New York Red Bulls II
End regular season

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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