HARTFORD, Conn. – Danny Barrera and Ever Guzman led the way, and 18-year-old Connecticut native Alfonso Vazquez scored his first professional goal, as Hartford Athletic moved back to the top of Group F with a 3-1 victory against Loudoun United FC on Sunday evening at Dillon Stadium.
Looking to rebound from their first loss of the season in midweek, the Athletic made an ideal start as Guzman put them ahead in the seventh minute. A through-ball by Barrera found Guzman breaking forward into the right channel and the Mexican forward’s first-time finish picked out the bottom-left corner of the net.
Three minutes later Hartford had a big chance to add to its lead when Alex Dixon was brought down just inside the left edge of the penalty area by Loudoun goalkeeper Colin Miller. Guzman stepped to the spot but was denied as Miller made an outstanding diving save to his left to redeem himself.
In the 18th minute, however, the duo of Barrera and Guzman linked up again to create a landmark moment for Barrera. Supplying a similar early through-ball as on the opening goal, Barrera became the fourth player to reach 30 regular-season assists in the Championship as Guzman outpaced his marker and chipped a delightful finish past the advancing Miller.
Loudoun responded quickly to the two-goal deficit and pulled a goal back from the penalty spot three minutes later. Athletic defender Matheus Silva was ruled to have handled in the area as he slid in to try and win possession, and Elvis Amoh sent Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda the wrong way with a low shot to the right side.
United was unable to build on its goal, however, and gaps defensively continue to offer Hartford opportunities. Four minutes before halftime, Dixon got in behind the defense on the right side and delivered a low cross to Guzman, who wasn’t quite able to control a sliding finish. Barrera also had a low cross blocked away minutes later as he looked to set up Guzman for his hat trick.
But Barrera added a goal to his earlier assists in the 66th minute. A half-cleared ball by the Loudoun defense came to Mads Jorgensen 25 yards from goal, and the Danish midfielder feinted to shoot and instead delivered a pass into Barrera just inside the penalty area. The playmaker took one touch and then picked his spot in the bottom-right corner to restore Hartford’s two-goal advantage.
Loudoun almost pulled back a goal in second-half stoppage time only for Mandanda to make a big save to keep out Christian Sorto. Then, moments before the final whistle, Vazquez’s moment arrived. Controlling a cross from the right by Dre Deas with his first touch, the local standout powered home a finish off the underside of the crossbar and into the net to provide an exclamation point for the hosts.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Danny Barrera, Hartford Athletic – Barrera’s historic night included two assists and one goal, and the playmaker also recorded four key passes, three shots on goal and completed 29 of 34 passes overall.