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 Hartford Athletic

Athletic Seek Third Straight Win in North Carolina

March 28, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Hartford Athletic News Release


Date: Friday, March 29th, 2024

Time: 7:00 PM ET

Location: WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina

Streaming: MyTV9, WTNH.com, or ESPN+

After a home opening win over Birmingham last Saturday to complete a 2-0 start to the season, Hartford Athletic head south for a matchup with North Carolina FC with a winning streak in their sights.

LAST TIME OUT

Hartford Athletic are coming off a 1-0 victory over Birmingham Legion FC last Saturday. The lone goal came from Michee Ngalina in the 23rd minute, slipping his shot past Matt Van Oekel after receiving a high-arching ball from Anderson Asiedu into the box. The Green and Blue were dominant in the first half, outshooting Birmingham 20 to 2 and putting seven shots on target. The attacking play was still alive for Hartford in the second half (four shots on target), but they were forced to defend a better attacking effort from Birmingham. The visitors took 16 shots and forced three saves from Paul Walters, but the rookie goalkeeper was up to the task and Hartford.

"If we perform like that, and execute tactically the way that we did and win duels on top of it, we have chance creators all over the field," Head Coach Brendan Burke said postgame. "It should have been 3-0 at halftime, at a minimum, and if we played like that against a team like that...and we can really suffocate teams, then we'll win most of our games."

MATCHUP HISTORY

Hartford Athletic are 0-1-1 all-time against North Carolina FC, only facing each other in 2019 before NCFC dropped down to League One. North Carolina won the first matchup on April 27th at WakeMed Soccer Park 4-1, and the two teams tied at Rentschler Field 1-1 on June 1st. In that match, Harry Swartz scored the fastest goal in Hartford Athletic history just 15 seconds after the opening kickoff.

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Hartford Athletic have started out the season with back to back clean sheets for the first time in Club history. The Club record for clean sheets in a season is nine (all by Jeff Caldwell in 2021).

BOMBS AWAY

Athletic's total of 27 overall shots against Birmingham ranked second all-time in a regular season game in club history, an encouraging statistic in regards to the team's attacking buildup play. The 45 total shots from both teams placed the game tied for eighth in the league's all-time list for most shots in a regular season contest, and only seven off the single-game regular season record of 52 set by Phoenix Rising and Las Vegas in the 2021 season.

ROMARIO RETURNS

Striker Romario Williams is back in the 18 for Hartford Athletic after missing last week's match due to his international call up to the Jamaican National Team. He was selected for their CONCACAF Semi-Final matchup with the U.S. last Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Texas, and appeared as a substitute in extra time of the thrilling match. It's a significant return for Hartford, as Williams has already scored a goal this season and is a key part of their attacking play up front.

ABOUT THE OPPONENT

North Carolina FC have made their return to the USL Championship after leaving the league in 2019, spending four seasons in USL fresh off of a League One and winning the League One Final a season ago. They've returned nine players from the 2023 championship team, most notably forward Oalex Anderson, midfielders Mikey Maldonado and Raheem Somersall, and defender Nelson Flores Blanco. Maldonado has contributed one of the club's two goals so far, and Anderson was the team's leading goal scorer last year, second in League One with 17. One player who did not return for North Carolina this season is current Hartford goalkeeper Brooks Thompson. He made 15 starts for them last season, clinching the League One championship with a diving save in penalties.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hartford Athletic: Deshane Beckford, FW #31

Beckford tore up the Birmingham defense from his wing position in the attacking third last week, taking four shots and putting three on goal. His most notable opportunity came in the third minute when he sprung loose on a break away and forced a sliding save from Matt Van Oekel, leading to a second chance that was blocked off the line by Arthur Patterson. He' been one of Hartford's most impactful attacking players so far without scoring a goal, and is due to find the back of the net soon.

North Carolina FC: Paco Craig, DF #2

Craig has established himself as one of, if not the best defenders in the USL Championship. The five-time all-league defender and two-time USL Cup winner is crucial part of North Carolina's back line. He is the only player on the team to have started all three games and not be subbed off, while leading the team in minutes, clearances, duels won, and aerial duels won. A force to be reckoned with, he will challenge Hartford's forwards.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

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