HARTFORD, May 15, 2021 — On the night that saw Dillon Stadium welcome back fans for the first time in over seven months, Hartford Athletic’s Luka Prpa made sure they went home with something to remember.
Prpa, who came on at halftime for Arthur Rogers, found the back of the net with a glancing header in the opening stages of second half stoppage time to help the Athletic earn a 1-1 tie with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in USL Championship action on Saturday night.
The game-tying play began after Pittsburgh was called for a foul at the edge of Pittsburgh’s penalty area. Danny Barrera’s set piece delivery found Prpa’s near post run, which ensured a point for Hartford (2-0-1) in its home opener.
“The effort was there. The quality wasn’t,” Hartford coach Harry Watling said. “I thought the crowd was outstanding in the second half and that’s why we equalized it.”
Due to COVID-19 protocols, the Athletic were allowed to sell up to 50 percent capacity for this game, which meant about 2,700 fans in the stands.
“There were incredible,” Barrera said. “It feels so good to have them back. At one point, I looked up and said this is 50 percent (capacity)? One hundred percent is going to be amazing. They definitely gave us that last push we needed. We felt that energy and it helped at the end.”
The match opened up as a back-and-forth affair with both sides creating chances.
Hartford’s Bradford Jamieson IV and Preston Tabort Etaka used their pace to make runs in behind the defense, but Pittsburgh was able to recover and put bodies in front of shots.
The Riverhounds (0-1-1) ended up grabbing the advantage courtesy of a Russell Cicerone goal in the 42nd minute when the Pittsburgh forward found himself through on goal and sent a shot past Hartford goalie Jeff Caldwell that deflected off the post and in.
The match got cagey as the second half progressed, with no massive chances but both sides becoming more physical. Tensions boiled over in the 78th minute when a late tackle from Kenardo Forbes on Boudadi resulted in the Pittsburgh midfielder seeing a straight red card, reducing Pittsburgh to ten men with just over 10 minutes to play.
Hartford went on the front foot after Forbes’ dismissal. The side was better at building possession in the middle and attacking thirds and were more willing to aggressively press to win the ball back
Hartford had a chance to steal all three points just minutes later when a loose ball fell to Conor McGlynn at the edge of Pittsburgh’s penalty area, but the midfielder’s volley went straight into the arms of Pittsburgh goalkeeper Danny Vitiello, keeping the score at 1-1 and sealing a point for both sides.
Hartford returns to action on May 29 when they host the Real Monarchs from Sandy, Utah, in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs at Dillon Stadium.
Hartford 1, Pittsburgh 1
Pittsburgh (0-1-1) 1 0 — 1
Hartford (2-0-1) 0 1 — 1
Goals: Pittsburgh: Russell Cicerone (Thomas Williamson) 42; Hartford: Luka Prpa (Danny Barrera), 91; Shots: Pittsburgh 10-9; Corner kicks: Pittsburgh 2-1