By Eric Casey/NPSL.com
Connecticut soccer fans were hoping for an all-Hartford affair in the next round of the U.S. Open Cup, but Lansdowne Yonkers FC had other ideas, as the visitors defeated a hastily assembled Hartford City FC squad 2-1 at Trinity Health Stadium on Thursday night.
Founded in 1997, Lansdowne Yonkers (formerly known as Lansdowne Bhoys) has earned a reputation as routinely being one of the highest quality amateur sides in the nation. The squad is regularly found at the top of the table in the Eastern Premier Soccer League, and captured the National Amateur Cup in 2017 and 2021. The New York City area team plays and trains with each other on a regular basis and were well prepared entering this contest.
In contrast, Hartford City had to assemble a squad based on the limited players that were eligible to play in the U.S Open Cup. Many of City’s players were taking the field together in a formal match for the first time tonight.
While Hartford was unable to win their first U.S. Open Cup game, Hugo Guerra did notch his name in the record books by grabbing the team’s first-ever goal in Cup competition. The 23-year-old forward was taken down in the box in the 28th minute and calmly stepped up to the spot to tuck home the penalty, giving his team the early lead.
The rest of the first half wore on mostly without incident, and it seemed like City was destined to head into the half up 1-0 until a late cross from Lansdowne’s Edward Speed was slotted home by striker Joseph Devivo in the first minute of stoppage time, knotting things at 1-1.
The Yonkers attack picked up in the second half. They eventually found their chance to take the lead from the penalty spot when Lansdowne striker Julio Espinal went down in the box. It appeared that City defender Jordan Koduah may have made contact as Espinal tried to move past him, and the striker certainly took this as an opportunity to draw the foul.
The Lansdowne penalty was keenly saved by Hartford goalkeeper David Mollenthiel, but the rebound gave Devivo an easy tap-in to get his second goal of the night, giving his side the 2-1 edge.
As the game wore on, it became even more physical, with Lansdowne’s Shaquille Saunchez and Steven Nolan picking up yellows in the 76th and 77th minute, respectively. In the end, a combined seven players received cautions, but everyone managed to avoid being shown a red.
Hartford City’s Nick Balistierri noted the unique challenges that squads like his face in fielding a team for this competition.
“We have to find players that we know and can put into this environment to find success,” he said. “They have to be fit, they have to adapt to our culture and play on a team that didn’t have an opportunity to really train for this competition.”
“It was announced in early February that we were playing the Cup, and none of these guys were playing together,” Balistierri added. “That is the reality of the challenge. The clock is ticking against you.”
Lansdowne Yonkers will move on to face USL Championship side Hartford Athletic in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup on April 4th. Hartford City FC are set to kick off their 2023 NPSL campaign at home against Syracuse on Sunday, May 14th at 2:00 pm.
Photo Credit: Eric Casey/NPSL.com