It’s match day once again! Rejoice! The Riverhounds travel to Hartford today to face Athletic (the Athletic? the Athletics?) in a game that will be broadcast on 22 The Point and ESPN+. I missed previewing last week’s game (oops) because, like the Riverhounds, I haven’t gotten into that *rhythm* of the season that helps a team get into the comfortable groove where things are automatic and clicking.
The primary observation we can all make from last week is that Pittsburgh was anything but automatic and clicking. Passes were misplaced. Simple receptions bounced up on guys or took an awkward touch to resettle. There were barely any shots, and when they were, they were irrelevant. It would be best (and most hopeful) to discount last week as an aberration and move on. Let’s all hope.
Hartford – The Broad Strokes
Athletic start off the USL season 2-0 after wins over NYRB II in Match Week Two, followed by a victory against Miami FC last week. Both of those matches were on the road, and they open at home at Dillon Stadium tonight at 50% capacity due to Covid precautions. Despite an 11-3-2 (WLT) record in 2020, most of the roster was revamped for this year – only one player on the field starting the game last week was with the club in the previous year. They most played cautiously – pressuring the ball but not pressing and trapping, and looking to breakout in transition with one or two quick passes. The match against Miami was pretty tight until the 59th minute when halftime substitute Preston Tabort Etaka banged in a beaut.
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) May 9, 2021
Athletic would hang on to win it on the road.
In general, they play a 4-3-3, they keep things tight, and they’ve got talent and good chemistry. Most the Pittsburgh Soccer Now braintrust thinks this team is the real deal, as Rachael Kriger, John Krysinsky, Matt Harkins, and Matt Gajtka, all picked them for the playoffs.
Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. is the Center Forward. The former Siena man is young and fast and crafty. He hasn’t really made his mark anywhere yet after a year with RGV Toros, but it seems like Hartford coach Harry Watling believes in the kid.
Bradford Jamieson IV is the most familiar name on the roster. The former winger/striker for LA Galaxy has played with Landon Donovan and Ashley Cole but also hasn’t really done much of note since 2017. He didn’t do much against Miami FC last week and was subbed off at the half for eventual goal scorer Tabort Etaka. So I think the question for the 24 year old native Angeleno is ‘which direction is his career headed in, and what role will his year with Hartford Athletic play?
Midfielder Danny Barrera is team captain and one of the few returning players from last year. He’s a strong tackler and a good passer, but his advanced metrics imply that he’s more or less an average USL cog. According American Soccer Analysis’s metric ‘g+’, a measure of all of the on-ball actions a player makes in a game in relation to how it contributes to likely goal production, he had -0.41 overall g+, adjusted for the USL average, meaning, he wasn’t that great. ASA’s numbers particularly point out that he’s weak at dribbling, with a -0.58 dribbling g+, and his tackling was also below average. Stick a pin in those thoughts, kids.
Finally, goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell is a former MLS talent – he played for New England and NYCFC, and he’s still young, and we know keepers like to develop late. He didn’t have much work against Miami, turning away mostly mundane shots, but I expect him to impress as the season goes on.
Last week’s Lineup
Image c/o Hartford Athletic via twitter