By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Hartford City Football Club knows the importance and impact of home matches, particularly at the historic Dillon Stadium. No travel, familiar landscapes, and the force of their fanbase support aims to create a distinct advantage for the Colts as they enter the First Round of the U.S. Open Cup.
On March 22, the Colts will welcome Oyster Bay United FC to Dillon Stadium in Hartford, CT at 7:30 pm ET. Safe to say, Hartford City is thrilled to partake in the classic nationwide tournament this year.
“Whenever we can showcase Connecticut soccer talent on the national stage, it’s a win for our club,” said Hartford City FC head coach Nick Balistierri, who led his group to capture the North Atlantic Conference title in 2021.
For its upcoming Open Cup match against Oyster Bay, Balistierri said that Colts fans should recognize players from this past NPSL campaign, who joined the team from various clubs and colleges around the area, while also welcoming some new names to the squad for this matchup.
“As we built our [U.S. Open] Cup roster, we worked with youth clubs and universities across the state to identify alumni that could contribute in fielding a competitive team,” said Balistierri.
Joining Hartford City’s side in 2018, midfielder and captain Mark Grant provides a stable grounding on the team ahead of the Open Cup match. Grant’s veteran presence aims to aid the team however he can on the pitch.
Having been named to the NPSL National XI following the 2021 season, Grant said that ahead of the tie with Oyster Bay, he hopes to be a force that leads and guides his side on all aspects of the match. The box-to-box midfielder said he has nothing fancy with his play, where he tries to create space for his offense to thrive and produce chances all while covering space on defensive runs. Ahead of the Open Cup match, that simplicity is again the focus.
“Ours and my main focus when we face them [Oyster Bay] will be on ourselves,” said Grant. “We’ve been focussing on our fitness at this moment, but also just preparing on our own game and how to best improve our play ahead of the match.”
Grant said that the key to Hartford City’s success later this month will be how the team can work together, both in the buildup on offense and in the cohesion on defense. Communication will also be key for his side in order to stay firm against Oyster Bay.
Additionally, Grant echos Balisteirri’s excitement for the match, both for himself as well as the club and the city.
“This opportunity is personally very exciting, as not many people get the chance to play in the U.S. Open Cup,” said Grant. “This is the very first time Hartford City has been in the tournament and I know that we as a team are excited, the fans are excited and will create a great atmosphere, and it is overall a neat chance to play in this national tournament.”
Hartford City looks to capitalize on the success of last season, having finished atop the North Atlantic Conference and reaching the East Region Semifinals in the 2021 NPSL Playoffs. That momentum, alongside home field advantage and a veteran presence, are keys to advancing to the next round of the Open Cup.
Photo Credit: Peter Stein