In the years to come, they may not remember who won the game. They may not remember who the opponent was. But they will never forget the goal.
Hartford’s Danny Barrera gave his teammates a memory they will never forget Wednesday night when he stretched out his leg and deflected a pass back over the goalie’s head and into the goal in the 90th minute to lift the Hartford Athletic to a key 3-2 USL Championship win over the Philadelphia Union II at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa.
The win enables Hartford (10-3-2) to stay on course to win Group F and secure a home game in the upcoming USL Championship playoffs. The Athletic had to win their final three games to secure a home game and Hartford began that journey on last Saturday with a stunning 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a team that had won their previous two games over the Athletic by a combined margin of 8-0.
On Wednesday night, Hartford had a two-goal lead only to see Union II rally to tie the game. And the Athletic needed a win to earn three points. One point for a tie would do Hartford little good if they wanted to win Group F.
It tied 2-2 late in the game when Tyreke Johnson lofted a long shot from 30 yards into the penalty box. Union II goalie Mitchell Budler easily got the ball on one hop and moved forward to throw it upfield. He threw it low about two feet off the ground.
Barrera was at the top of the penalty area. He extended his leg backward, caught the ball on his heel and it sailed high into the air over Budler and took one hop into the net for the game-winning goal as the clock hit 90 minutes.
The team’s Twitter feed accurately called it “The Immaculate Deflection.”
“It something I always do when I am defending. It’s not always the best way to defend,” Barrera told The Nutmeg Sports podcast. “You kind of bait them in a bit and make them feel that this space is available and I saw him go to throw him it out.”
It’s not the first time for Barrera either. “I do weird stuff in practice all the time. At home, I can’t tell you how many diapers I have ninja kicked or try to ninja kick into the trash. Finally, I got one in,” he said.
“The goal was cool and it is a unique (one) that I will never forget,” he said. “I was really more happy about winning the game and that is really what I was thinking about more than how crazy the goal was.”
Hartford, in their second year as a team, can clinch the Group F title with a win over the New York Red Bulls II (5-10) on Sunday in New Jersey. The win moved Hartford into first place in Group F, one point ahead of Pittsburgh (10-4-1).
Hartford took an early 1-0 lead just eight minutes into the game. Hartford’s Alex Dixon latched onto a pass from teammate Idan Cohen and was brought down in the penalty area by Budler. Mads Jorgensen stepped up to the spot and shot low to the right corner just out of the reach of Budler’s dive. Hartford added a second in the 15th minute as a corner kick from the left by Jorgensen sailed to the back post and was tapped home on the doorstep by Alex Lara for his first goal for the club.
Philadelphia pulled a goal back from a corner kick of its own in the 22nd minute, however, as a low delivery from the left by Paxten Aaronson was redirected into his own net on a mishit clearance attempt by Cohen at the near post.
Hartford went close to restoring its two-goal lead eight minutes before the break, but Dixon was unable to find the target after a good centering feed from Gabriel Torres from the left, and then early in half Cohen slid a shot just wide of the left post from the right side of the area.
Philadelphia (2-10-3) tied the game at 2-2 with 30 minutes left. Nathan Harriel delivered a long ball forward for Caden Stafford, who just got the ball first and flicked his finish past the advancing goalie Mike Novotny and into the open net.
Novotny was making his first start of the season because starting goalie Parfait Mandanda received a red card in Saturday night’s win over Pittsburgh and was serving a one-game suspension.
Philadelphia then was awarded a chance to take the lead with 11 minutes to go as Hartford’s Matheus Silva brought down the Union II’s Issa Rayyan in the penalty area, but Rayyan’s effort from the penalty spot was saved as Novotny made an outstanding diving stop on his shot to the left corner.
It was Barrera’s first goal of the season for Hartford while Lara also scored his first goal. Jorgensen sored his second goal of the campaign. Novotny earned his first win in goal for the Athletic.
Hartford 3, Philadelphia 2
Hartford (10-3-2) 2 1 — 3
Philadelphia (2-10-3) 1 1 — 2
Goals: Hartford – Mads Jorgesen, 8; Alex Lara 15, Danny Barrera 90; Philadelphia – Own goal, Caden Stafford (60); Saves: Mike Novotny (H) 2, Mitch Budler (P) 0; Shots: Philadelphia 10-8, Corner kicks: Hartford 6-5
Saturday, October 3
Philadelphia Union II at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m.
Sunday, October 4
Hartford at New York Red Bulls II, 5 p.m.
Group F standings
|New York Red Bulls II||15||5-10||30||35||15|
|Philadelphia Union II||15||2-10-3||10||19||9|
y-Clinched playoff berth. Teams earn three points for a win and one point for a tie.