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 Hartford Athletic

Rice Backs Hartford in 1-1 Draw with Louisville

October 7, 2023 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Hartford Athletic News Release

A stellar seven-save performance from Joe Rice allowed Hartford to stay in the game against Louisville tonight, and Luke Merrill's first professional goal brought the Green and Blue level in the second half. They'll return home for the final time this season with a point after a 1-1 draw with LouCity.

Hartford were on the defensive immediately in tonight's match, as LouCity generated two scoring chances before 90 seconds went by. Dylan Mares put an open shot on goal 20 seconds in that was saved by Joe Rice. 50 seconds later, Niall McCabe beat Rice, but the goal was called off due to Rasmus Thellufsen being offside earlier in the play.

The offensive ambush from Louisville continued with a shot from inside the box by Brian Ownby, and then Oscar Jiménez drove a shot off the left post. Hartford were able to weather the storm and began to find some holes in Lou City's third by the 20th minute on. Danny Barrera put a well-struck shot on target, but it didn't challenge Semmle. Kyle Edwards found space in the box on a cross from Robin Lappert, and put a header just over the crossbar in the 39th minute. Edwards threatened again just before stoppage time, but his shot from close range was blocked.

The final play of the half ended with an excellent save by Joe Rice. Wilson Harris got loose in Hartford's box and tried to beat Rice low to the left side, but Rice got his right foot to the ball just in time to make the save. A massive stop from Hartford's keeper to keep the game tied going into half, as Hartford are 1-12-0 when trailing after the first 45 minutes to this season.

Rice was busy again at the start of the second half, making his fifth save of the night on a shot from Brian Ownby just four minutes into the frame. 10 minutes later, Elvis Amoh nearly gave Hartford the lead on the other end. Oliver Semmle misplayed a cross from Robin Lapert, diving off his line and out of position. The ball fell to Amoh, but his shot on the open net went above the crossbar. Louisville capitalized on the missed opportunity from Hartford, as Rasmus Thellufsen scored on the ensuing possession. He chased down a lead ball from Niall McCabe, and let go a left-footed shot from the top right of the box past Joe Rice.

Louisville continued to challenge Joe Rice, and Hartford's keeper was up to the task. Wilson Harris deflected a shot right in front of goal in the 74th minute, and Rice reacted quickly and calmly to make the catch. The save to keep the deficit at one loomed large, as Luke Merrill brought Hartford level just a minute later. Antoine Hoppenot fed Elvis Amoh in the box, and Amoh laid the ball off for Merrill at the top of the box. He took one touch, then blasted his shot to the bottom left corner through traffic. The equalizer was the 22 year old's first professional goal, adding an exclamation point to a bright first season for Merrill.

Hartford were unable to get a shot off the rest of the game, and leaned on Joe Rice to get them to the final whistle with the score still tied. He stood strong down the stretch, making two more saves and catching a dangerous cross into the box. Perhaps his best save of the night was a diving effort to the bottom right corner, denying a bouncing shot with great pace from Maarten Pouwels in the 87th minute. He ended his night by securing a long-distance shot from Elijah Wynder, and Hartford survived seven minutes of stoppage to seal a point.

Seven saves for Rice ties a season-high, dating back to July 22nd against Las Vegas. Beverly Makangila had a season-high six clearances as well, and Robin Lapert followed with five. Hartford Athletic return home for the final match of the season against FC Tulsa next Friday, October 13th. Kickoff is set for 7:00 PM, and the match is nearly sold out. Fans are encouraged to arrive early for ease of entry.

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