By Gabriel Glynn-Habron
Syracuse FC hosted Hartford City FC at Camden High School for a clash in the North Atlantic Conference on July 1st. SFC came into the game with a 0-5-3 record. On the other hand, Hartford entered the match sitting at 4-2-3. It was the second meeting between the two clubs this season. Hartford beat Syracuse 2-1 back in the season opener on May 14th.
Even with muggy conditions and summer rain threatening, the two teams showed intensity from the opening whistle. Hartford City commanded the ball for much of the first 10 minutes, but it was SFC who looked like more of an attacking threat. In the 7th minute, Syracuse defender Jake Munksi capitalized on a slip in the midfield and immediately began attacking Hartford’s backline. Slipping past two Hartford defenders, Munksi sent a through ball into the penalty box for Conor Baird. The wide midfielder swiftly took a touch past his man and fired a ball to the back post that just missed the extended foot of a SFC player.
Both clubs found attacking success in the wide areas of the pitch. Syracuse midfielder Jake Pawlika and striker Caio Hughes provided a spark on the right side of the SFC formation. For the Colts, much of the first-half offense ran through winger Christian Dionne. Using his pace and positional awareness, Dionne was consistently able to create dangerous holes in the Syracuse defense.
In the 14th minute the Pawlika to Hughes connection paid off for SFC. Following a Pawlika tackle at the halfway line, Hughes picked up the ball just a step or two inside of the Hartford half. Glancing up at the goal, the forward pushed the ball out in front of him and lobbed a shot from about 45 yards out. Hartford goalkeeper Nathan DiLoreto was left defenseless as the ball floated over his head, finding the back of the net and earning SFC a 1-0 lead.
Despite the brilliance of Hughes’ goal, the Syracuse advantage would not even last 10 minutes. After failing to convert on an open net opportunity in the 20th minute, Hartford got on the board three minutes later. Dionne once again found himself in a threatening position, receiving a pass in the middle of the Syracuse defense just inside of the penalty area. The attacker quickly shifted the ball out of his feet and launched a rocket into the top corner of the net, leveling the game at 1-1.
The momentum began to build for Hartford City FC. The Colts threatened Syracuse goalkeeper Andrew Taylor multiple times after equalizing. Following a beautiful display of one-touch passing, Taylor was forced to make a leaping save as Hartford’s Nathan Becher fizzed a ball from outside of the box.
Hartford’s sustained pressure culminated in the 36th minute with a penalty as Dionne was fouled inside of the area after racing past two Syracuse defenders. Dionne confidently stepped up to the spot and kicked the ball past the outstretched arms of Taylor, giving the Colts a 2-1 lead.
Syracuse central midfielder Cason Stafford helped to keep SFC in the game, linking up with Hughes and spraying passes to the outside. Regardless of Syracuse’s efforts, Hartford’s swarming defense always seemed to snuff out dangerous chances.
Hartford would tack on another goal just before halftime in the 44th minute. Colts midfielder Mark Grant lashed the ball from about 30 yards out, beating Taylor and putting Hartford up 3-1 going into the break.
The second half started just where the first half left off. Hartford controlled the pace and retained possession for much of the second 45 minutes. Hartford missed the chance to add to their lead twice as Nathan Becher failed to convert on a cross and Dionne struck the crossbar. Munski was a workhorse at the back, matching the speed of Hartford’s attackers and making vital tackles to keep his team close.
Hartford would finally breakthrough in the 57th minute when Evan Jones got the ball on a cross. Positioned at the top of the 18-yard box, Jones controlled a bouncing ball and calmly shot the ball past Taylor, putting the Colts up 4-1.
Hartford would stave off several strong attacking efforts from Baird to keep the Syracuse goal tally at one. After several diving saves from Taylor late in the second half, the game finished 4-1.
Syracuse FC closes out its season on July 8th with a matchup against Kingston Stockade FC. The match marked the end of the regular season for Hartford, and the Colts will wait for a matchup in the conference playoffs.
Photo Credit: Stuart Rotblat