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 Hartford Athletic

Hartford Finish Home Stand against Tampa Bay Tomorrow Night

June 20, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Hartford Athletic News Release


Coming off a commanding home victory last Saturday to mark the first defeat against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC since 2020, Hartford Athletic carry some momentum into their matchup with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

LAST TIME OUT

Hartford Athletic beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2-0 at home last week. The win was headlined by a brace from Michee Ngalina, scoring both of his goals before the 20th minute and the Green and Blue never looked back. The first goal came in the sixth minute, when Ngalina chased down a long ball from Triston Hodge and beat Jacob Randolph to the bottom right corner. The tally marked the fastest goal Hartford had scored all season, just five minutes in. Ngalina struck again in the 16th minute, this time with the help of Deshane Beckford. The Jamaican winger made a run up the left flank into Pittsburgh's box and sent a low cross that Ngalina slid to, tapping the ball into the net off of a volley. The visitors made multiple attempts to level out the score, including hitting the post twice, but were ultimately unsuccessful. The Green and Blue put pressure on the Hounds' defense into the final minutes of play, but the score remained 2-0 at the end of the match.

MATCHUP HISTORY

Hartford Athletic are 2-7-1 all-time against the Rowdies, defeating them most recently in 2021 at Al Lang Stadium 1-0. Athletic last saw the Rowdies in September of 2023 on their home turf, suffering a frustrating 2-0 loss that featured two Hartford own goals. The Green and Blue out possessed Tampa Bay 52% to 48% and outshot them 16 to seven, but came short of capitalizing on any goal-scoring opportunities. The Rowdies' two goals came within 10 minutes of each other in the 16th and 26th minutes of play, one bouncing off the back of Joe Rice and into the net, and the other deflecting off of Beverly Makangila into an open net on a counter-attacking opportunity for Tampa Bay.

BACK-FLIPPING INTO FORM

Michee Ngalina's brace last week was his first two-goal performance since he won the USL Championship's Young Player of the Year award in 2022, and a positive sign that the prolific goal scorer is coming into form for Hartford. "Michee looked like himself tonight. He looked like the guy who was winning us games every weekend out in Colorado," said Coach Burke after Ngalina's brace last week. "...And everybody else was in perfect position to support his movements." It was a breakout performance for the former Ngalina, who came into this season with high expectations to be Hartford's top goal-scoring threat. The two goals gave him his team-leading fourth and fifth of the season.

START STRONG

‚¬â€¹ ‚¬â€¹Hartford Athletic scored first for the first time in nine matches last week. They've yet to lose a lead in USL Championship play this season, holding a 4-0-0 record when they score first.

FAMILIAR FACES

Thomas Vancaeyezeele and Jordan Scarlett will be two familiar faces for the Tampa Bay Rowdies upon their arrival at Trinity Health Stadium this Friday. Vancaeyezeele was acquired by the Rowdies in May of 2022 from Birmingham Legion in exchange for an international roster spot. The 29-year-old defender suffered an achilles injury early into the 2022 season and missed the majority of the campaign (eight appearances). Scarlett spent three excellent seasons with the Rowdies from 2020 to 2022, serving as one of the club's defensive leaders. He made 79 appearances (73 starts) and totaled 207 clearances, 121 interceptions, and 88 tackles won. The Rowdies made it to the Eastern Conference Final in all three years of Scarlett's tenure and gave up a league-low 27 goals in 2021 with him anchoring their back line. Both Scarlett and Vancaeyezeele left Tampa Bay after the 2022 season.

BETWEEN THE POSTS

Hartford Athletic: Renan Ribeiro, GK, #40

Renan Ribeiro is coming into Friday night's matchup with momentum after being selected for a spot on the bench for the USL Championship Team of the Week for Week 15. The 34-year-old goalie's recognition came following his impressive performance against Pittsburgh on Saturday, when he earned a match-high five saves and led the Green and Blue to their third shutout of the season. He was particularly strong on back-to-back saves on free kicks from Danny Griffin and Kenardo Forbes in the late stages of the match, getting two hands to both well-struck shots not spilling any rebound chances. The Brazilian international has made 29 saves this season, bringing his GAA down to 1.43 and boasting a save success rate of nearly 75%.

Tampa Bay Rowdies: Jordan Farr, GK #1

The 2022 USL Championship Goalkeeper of the Year has lived up to his reputation as one of the league's best with his new club this season. Farr has recorded the second-most clean sheets in the league (five) and made the third-most saves (38) in the Eastern Conference. He made four saves in the Rowdies' dramatic victory over Louisville last week, including a diving effort on a Niall McCabe free kick in the 88th minute to keep the match tied at 2-2. The 29-year-old has winning experience in the league, helping San Antonio to the 2022 Championship title in the same season that he equaled the league's single-season regular-season shutout record with 15 clean sheets.

ABOUT THE OPPONENT

The Tampa Bay Rowdies are coming into tomorrow's match with a 7-3-4 record, putting them fourth on the Eastern Conference table. The Rowdies are in the midst of a quality run of form, coming out victorious in four of their last five matches and beating the league-leading Louisville City FC last week. In their latest match against Louisville City FC last Saturday, the Rowdies left their home turf with a 3-2 victory after Damian Rivera sealed the win against the number one team in the Championship with a goal in stoppage time. The team maintained 55.4% of possession and outshot Louisville 14 to 13. The Tampa-based team is currently tied for second in the league in goals scored with a total of 27 this season. The team also sits at third in shots taken (218) and is tied for third in conversion rate (17%) and clean sheets (5) in the Eastern Conference. The Rowdies will travel to Trinity Health Stadium with a record of 2-2-2 on the road this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hartford Athletic: Deshane Beckford FW #31

Beckford has been an essential piece to the Green and Blue's success in the attacking third this season and his offensive drive played a key role in Hartford's recent victory over Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old forward racked up his first assist of the season in the 17th minute when he made a skillful run up the left flank and into the box before firing a low cross to Michee Ngalina who volleyed it into the back of the net. Beckford's energy stayed high throughout the entirety of the match. The Jamaican player came close to raising the score in the 52nd minute of play when he fired a shot on goal that forced a diving save from the Hounds goalie. Beckford currently sits second on the team in shots (21) and third on the team in goals (2).

Tampa Bay Rowdies: Damian Rivera MF #8

Rivera was responsible for the Rowdies game-winning goal in Saturday night's match against Louisville. The 21-year-old midfielder fired off a right-footed volley in the final minutes of play to secure the win for the Rowdies. The Rhode Island native has led his team in offensive opportunities throughout the 14 games he has started and played for the Rowdies. Rivera joined Tampa on a loan ahead of their 2024 season and has already netted two goals and fired off seven shots for the team.

Date: Friday, June 21st, 2024

Time: 7:30 PM ET

Location: Trinity Health Stadium, Hartford, CT

Watch: MyTV9, wtnh.com, Golazo Network

HARTFORD ATHLETIC (5-7-1) vs TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (7-3-4)


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