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 Hartford Athletic

Hartford Win Home Opener 1-0 Over Birmingham

March 23, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Hartford Athletic News Release

A commanding first half capped off by a Michee Ngalina goal led Hartford to a 1-0 victory in their home opener over Birmingham Legion FC.

Hartford Athletic were dominant in the first half of today's match, taking 21 shots, putting seven on target, and owning 58% of the possession through the opening 45 minutes. Deshane Beckford opened his afternoon with a golden opportunity on goal, sneaking behind the Birmingham back line to force a charging save from Matt Van Oekel, and a miraculous block from Arthur Paterson on the open-net rebound attempt. Hartford took eight more shots before Michee Ngalina found the back of the net in the 23rd minute. Anderson Asiedu lofted the ball high up into the air that Ngalina played off a volley in the box, sliding it past Van Oekel with his left foot into the bottom right corner of the net. The 23 year old's first goal in Green and Blue gave his side an early 1-0 lead.

An onslaught of Hartford scoring chances followed Ngalina's goal. On a corner kick in the 31st minute, Joe Farrell forced a diving save from Van Oekel on a well-placed header. With the ball still loose, Farrell rattled a low cross into traffic in front of goal, forcing three blocked shots on two tries from Thomas Vancaeyezeele, and one for Michee Ngalina.

Jay Chapman sent a shot just over the crossbar in the 38th minute, and Anderson Asiedu challenged Van Oekel with an on-target strike from outside the box for Hartford's final scoring threat of the half. Athletic totaled 37 touches in the box to Birmingham's eight, taking a 1-0 lead and command over the match into the locker room.

Birmingham began the second half with some more life, as Diba Nwegbo fired a shot from inside the box that went just wide of the right post in the 47th minute. Mamadou Dieng responded for Hartford with a chance of his own at the doorstep on the other end, but Van Oekel came up with a point blank save.

The visitors' best chance of the game came in the 74th minute. On the counter attack after a Hartford corner, a two-on-one developed between Enzo Martinez and Tyler Pasher with only Jay Chapman back for Hartford. Martinez played it from right to left to Pasher, and Paul Walters came up with a fantastic left-footed kick save to deny the Birmingham striker from inside the box.

Hartford survived one final Birmingham attempt at an equalizer on a free kick from just outside the box in the 92nd minute. Nwegbo struck the free kick over Hartford's wall and forced a save from Walters. The rebound fell to an open Miguel Perez, but his shot went wide left of the net.

After four minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle blew and Hartford secured a 1-0 victory in their home opener.

Despite just one goal, Hartford had a handful of quality offensive performances today. Deshane Beckford wreaked havoc in the Birmingham third, creating four first half chances and totaling nine touches in their box. Anderson Asiedu provided energy in the midfield, taking three shots, winning four tackles, and swiping three interceptions. Joe Farrell and Marcus Epps added four shots apiece, and Mamadou Dieng put two shots on target in his USL Championship debut. Defensively, Walters came up with three saves, and Hartford totaled 15 clearances overall.

The Green and Blue move to 2-0-0, and go back on the road next week for a matchup with North Carolina FC on Friday, March 29th at 7:00pm.

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