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THE MORNING TEA – Athletic Make Long-Awaited Debut Under Jaïdi

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 07/17/20, 7:30AM EDT

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San Antonio eager to get going again in South Texas Derby; Servania’s debut draws notable attention

The weekend gets underway with four games tonight, including a national television clash between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and North Carolina FC, but the most intriguing story might be in the Northeast. Here’s your Morning Tea for Friday.

 

THE BIG STORY

There is always much to do as a new coach tries to instill his training and playing philosophy after taking the reins at a new club.

But for much of what has proven to be an extended preseason for Hartford Athletic under Head Coach Radhi Jaïdi, plenty had to be done through Zoom calls and individual training.

As the Athletic finally get to make their debut for the club’s second season, the former Southampton FC U-23s coach is optimistic that he and his team are positioned to succeed.

“We worked on different aspects, ultimately players understanding,” Jaïdi told the Journal Inquirer’s Adam Betz this week. “But I’m really grateful to have around me a bunch of staff who did everything to support my ideas. Also, we have a bunch of players who showed really good application, and the will and desire to keep themselves going and working hard. Especially, fitness-wise, to get ourselves in this situation.”

A game against the New York Red Bulls II will be a good opening test for Hartford, which has numerous new faces on the field after a disappointing first year. As a perennial playoff side, the Red Bulls II have been particularly good on home turf at MSU Soccer Park, as the Athletic found out last season when they suffered a 4-0 defeat on the road.

If the Athletic can come through with a positive result, however, it will set up a big homecoming on Monday night very nicely, with Loudoun United FC will be the visitor at Dillon Stadium. With 25 percent of the venue expected to be open for fans, and ESPN2 carrying the game nationally, Jaïdi is hopeful of showing Hartford’s fans what his side is capable of.

“It’s so exciting,” Jaïdi told Betz. “The presence of the fans will give a boost for us and the players. We’ve missed the fans since the start of the preseason. We had the pandemic as a setback that kept us all time away of the fans and of the Dillon. So, having them in Dillon would be really exciting for us, would be an opportunity to showcase all the preparation we’ve been doing since last February.”

 

TONIGHT'S ACTION

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. North Carolina FC

(2-0-0)
Group H

6:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Al Lang Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: TBR Wins 49% | Draw 26% | NC Wins 25%
(0-1-0)
Group G
The Gist: The Tampa Bay Rowdies will play host to a side that has given them trouble at home over the past two seasons when they welcome North Carolina FC for a nationally televised clash on ESPN2. NCFC has won on its last two trips to downtown St. Petersburg, with last year’s 3-1 victory part of seasons sweep that also saw Head Coach Dave Sarachan’s side put up a 4-2 victory on home turf. This will be North Carolina’s first game since the resumption of the season, however, and with the Rowdies coming off a comeback 2-1 win against Atlanta United 2 last Saturday night the hosts will be hoping their added game will help turn the tables on the visitors this time around.

New York Red Bulls II vs. Hartford Athletic

(0-1-0)
Group F

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: MSU Soccer Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: NY Wins 43% | Draw 24% | HFD Wins 32%
(0-0-0)
Group F
The Gist: Four months after Hartford Athletic’s new era under Head Coach Radhi Jaïdi was supposed to begin, the first game of the club’s second year sees it still headed to face the New York Red Bulls II for its opener. Hartford has undergone a major overhaul during the offseason and will be hoping to put on a positive display after defeating New York 3-2 in a preseason scrimmage back in March. With the Red Bulls II having suffered defeat to Tampa Bay in its season-opener four months ago, this Group F game could be a good litmus test for both clubs.

Austin Bold FC vs. OKC Energy FC

(1-0-0)
Group D

9:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Bold Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: ATX Wins 48% | Draw 26% | OKC Wins 26%
(0-1-1)
Group D
The Gist: Austin Bold FC returns to play looking to build on a successful start to its campaign back in March, when it took a 1-0 win against New Mexico United to start the season. It will have to find success without two notable members of its attack, however, with Andre Lima and Kris Trypak both electing to sit out the remainder of the season with the club’s blessing. How that affects Austin’s lineup will remain to be seen, but in OKC Energy FC they will face a side that has already seen action since the season resumption in a 1-1 draw on Monday night against FC Tulsa. With Group D looking like it could be a tight battle, victory for either side would be a big result.
 

THE SOCIAL CIRCLE

 

THE USL LOWDOWN

- Friday night's scheduled between Rio Grande Valley FC and San Antonio FC was postponed on Thursday night, with the decision made out of an abundance of caution following one of RGV FC's covered persons testing positive for COVID-19. A new date for the postponed match will be made public as soon as it is available.

- Birmingham Legion FC’s win on Wednesday night provided a statement game for the hosts, and even attracted the attention of current Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards, tuned in to watch the professional debut of Jaden Servania, a fellow alum of the FC Dallas Academy.

- Phoenix Rising FC took a second-half lead on the road against Orange County SC looking for a third consecutive win to start the season. OCSC's Kevin Coleman produced an equalizer, however, to leave honors even and Phoenix level on points at the top of Group B with San Diego Loyal SC.

- Whatever walk of life or profession, mental health is a serious issue faced by many people. Rio Grande Valley FC’s Ben Willis spoke with the Beautiful Game Network’s Carson Merk about his battle with anxiety, and what made him decide to start receiving help to reduce its effects.

- The Tampa Bay Rowdies are looking to notch their first three-game winning streak to start a season since 2017 when they host North Carolina FC on Friday night. The Tampa Bay Times' Kyle Wood caught up with the side ahead of the game at Al Lang Stadium that will air on ESPN2

- Sacramento Republic FC welcomes Reno 1868 FC to Papa Murphy’s Park on Sunday night on ESPN2 in the renewal of a rivalry that has become one of the best in the Championship. The Sacramento Bee’s Cameron Salerno looked ahead to what should be another compelling contest between the clubs.

- Louisville City FC Head Coach John Hackworth emphasized the importance of Saturday’s first Kings’ Cup meeting of the season with Saint Louis FC when he met with media this week, with both sides sitting behind Indy Eleven in the Group E standings after last weekend’s results.

- San Diego Loyal SC’s clash with the LA Galaxy II will air on ESPN Deportes this Sunday, but the game will also be broadcast locally on the CW San Diego with a broadcast team including former U.S. Women’s National Team member Shannon MacMillan and play-by-play voice Jack Cronin. The club will also feature a half-hour pregame and post-game show that will air on Facebook Live with Jordan Carruth and Darren Smith.

- We’ve seen some great displays of fans images in the stands for El Paso Locomotive FC and Phoenix Rising FC home games so far since action resumed in the USL Championship, and Las Vegas Lights FC is getting in on the action as well. Lights FC announced on Thursday the opportunity for fans to upload photos what will be mounted on life-size cutouts and be placed in the stands at Cashman Field this season.

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