By JJ Duke/Hartford City FC
Hartford City FC (7-0-2, 23 points) picked up a 2-0 victory over Valeo FC (4-2-3, 15 points) on Saturday night at Trinity Health Stadium.
Hartford City will be the number one seed in the four-team North Atlantic Conference playoffs and will have hosting rights throughout that event. With the loss, Valeo FC will finish the regular season in second place in the conference and will host a semifinal.
With Saturday’s match being a battle of first vs. second in the conference, it was expected that there would be a cagey start to proceedings. Both teams created a few half chances in the first 20 minutes as Valeo’s Brian Nsang clipped a shot from distance over the bar in the ninth minute and both Hartford City’s Ronan Dillow and Alec Hughes sent warning shots just wide of the mark in the 11th and 17th minute respectively.
The game’s first real opportunity came from a Colts’ set piece in the 24th minute after Marcus Williams played a ball down the right flank to Mark Grant. The Hartford City captain teed up a cross to the back post that Dillow connected with but put his effort off the crossbar.
Valeo FC came close to opening the scoring in the 39th minute as Jodel Brown curled a beautiful free kick around the wall from 30 yards out but to his dismay, it rang cleanly off the post.
The first turning point of the match came in the 50th minute when the North Atlantic’s top scorer Matthew Bell was played through on goal and only had one defender to beat in HCFC’s Larson Richards. However, Richards did enough to force Bell into a tougher angle chance than the Valeo attacker would have liked, and Hartford City goalkeeper Jamis Fite parried his shot out for a corner.
The second turning point came just four minutes later when Valeo FC defender Isnaba Namusse was given his marching orders after picking up his second yellow card for a foul on HCFC’s Andrew Geres.
All championship-caliber sides always have a knack of capitalizing on mistakes and with Valeo being down to ten players, Hartford City didn’t wait all that long to compound the visitor’s error by scoring the opening goal.
From a Fite clearance in the 56th minute, Colts midfielder Mitchell Lyons found a cutting Dillow at the edge of the box and the Georgetown striker played Hughes in with a one-touch backheel. Hughes was able to race past the last defender and slot his effort through the legs of Valeo goalkeeper Zach Rowell for his seventh goal of the season.
Things would go from bad to worse for Valeo FC as with 11 minutes to go in the second half, centerback Abdul Barrie received his second yellow card and was sent off, meaning that the visitors would have to finish the match with just nine players.
Hartford City, who were happy at that point just to keep possession for the remaining minutes by being up two players, picked up their second goal in the 86th minute as Zach Sauer stepped into a simple layoff from second-half substitute Moussa Wade and rifled one to the top corner from 25 yards out, sending the crowd at Trinity Health Stadium into euphoria.
Hartford City nproved that Trinity Heath Stadium is a tough place for any team to come in and get a result, as the Colts have picked up 13 of a possible 15 points in five home matches in 2022.
Photo Credit: Phil Zolla/Hartford City FC