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THE MORNING TEA – Hartford and the Hounds: A Group F Showcase

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 08/28/20, 7:30AM EDT


Louisville, Memphis make additions ahead of weekend games; Phoenix prepares for trip to face Reno

The weekend's action kicks off with two intriguing contests in the USL Championship tonight, including on featuring two sides looking primed for the playoffs but each with something to prove in their first meeting of the season. Here's your Morning Tea for Friday.



Okay so here’s what we know about Hartford Athletic.

First, they’re a much better side than the one that played the club’s inaugural season. Second, in the one big test they’ve had so far against Indy Eleven, they performed well in spurts, but gave away goals late in a 4-1 defeat at Lucas Oil Stadium.

And lastly, they’re a side that’s shown a resiliency when playing from behind. Oh, and one more thing... they’re probably going to make the playoffs.

So what does that mean for the Athletic as they gets ready to face their group F rivals Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for the first time on Friday night at Dillon Stadium?

“It’s a very important game for us,” Hartford midfielder Danny Barrera told the Journal Inquirer’s Adam Betz. “It’s going to be a good test for us. I know they’ve been watching us, we’ve been watching them.”

Barrera figures to be on one side of a duel between two of the league’s best playmakers. On the other is the Hounds’ Kenardo Forbes, who sits one ahead of Barrera with seven assists this season and has cemented his place among the elite players in the league’s history by becoming its all-time assists leader this season.

Their presence – and those of other notable attacking performers on either side – should make for an entertaining game at least.

“I think they’ve been scoring goals and pretty stingy defensively,” said Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley to media this week. “I think we have the personnel to go there and get a result, but we’ve got to take care of the ball and slow them down. Typical stuff, but we want to be on the front foot.”

There are expectations, too, for the Hounds. As last season’s first-place finisher in the Eastern Conference, missing out on top spot in what appears to be the easiest of the eight regionalized groups would certainly be a disappointment.

But the central attraction on Friday night will be how Hartford performs on its home turf against another serious title contender, and whether it can set up a close race to the finish in the second half of the regular season in front of its strong home support.

“The fans have been amazing,” Athletic forward Alex Dixon told Betz. “So, I know they’re going to come and bring the noise and the energy. So, we just have to match it and then hopefully come out and get out a good result.”



Hartford Athletic vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Group F

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Dillon Stadium Predictor: HFD Wins 22% | Draw 23% | PIT Wins 55%
Group F
The Gist: The top two teams in Group F meet for the first time this season as Hartford Athletic plays host to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Dillon Stadium. Both sides enter on 16 points, with the Hounds holding the edge on goal differential, after coming off differing 2-2 draws in their most recent outings. Pittsburgh missed out on victory last Saturday night as it took an early two-goal lead against Saint Louis FC at Highmark Stadium, but was pegged back to finish with only a point. Hartford, meanwhile, rallied late to earn a draw as recent signing Markus Naglestad made a big impact with a late goal and another key set piece that allowed Alex Dixon to score the equalizer against Loudoun United FC. In a matchup featuring two of the top-three assist leaders in the Championship in Pittsburgh’s Kenardo Forbes (7 assist) and Hartford’s Danny Barrera (6 assists), there should be plenty of entertainment in store.
Discipline: None

Rio Grande Valley FC vs. San Antonio FC

Group D

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: H-E-B Park Predictor: RGV Wins 13% | Draw 21% | SA Wins 66%
Group D
The Gist: The South Texas Derby returns as Rio Grande Valley FC plays host to San Antonio FC in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN Deportes with the visitors looking to maintain its position as one of two undefeated sides remaining in the Championship this season. San Antonio is undefeated in nine games overall this season and has won back-to-back contests against OKC Energy FC and FC Tulsa to open a nine-point lead at the top of the Group D standings. Led by what stands currently as the best defense in the league with only four goals conceded in nine games, SAFC has placed itself among the title favorites so far this campaign. Things haven’t gone as well for the Toros, who remain winless after a 3-2 defeat to Austin Bold FC last time out, but the prior two meetings this season between these two rivals have been tight affairs with the first contest ending in a 1-1 draw at H-E-B Park on July 19 before San Antonio edged out a 1-0 win six days later at Toyota Field.
Discipline: None




- If you look closely in the stands at Friday night’s game between Rio Grande Valley FC and San Antonio FC at H-E-B Park, you may see some very furry faces in the seats. The Toros have teamed with Friends for Hope for a local fundraiser for pediatric cancer patients, with the Fanfare Bears available to be purchased online through the club.

- Louisville City FC became the latest USL Championship side to find a new addition from the college ranks on Thursday as it signed former Stanford University forward Arda Bulut. The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Dominique Yates has more on the new arrival, who is forgoing his senior season with the Cardinal to join the professional ranks.

- Memphis 901 FC also made a new addition on Thursday with the arrival of Tommy McCabe on loan from Major League Soccer’s FC Cincinnati. McCabe has previous Championship experience, having scored two goals in nine appearances for North Carolina FC a season ago.

- New Mexico United will again head to face El Paso Locomotive FC and Southwest University Park on Saturday, September 5 as the venue for the contest between the top two sides in Group C was switched on Thursday. New Mexico has yet to play a home game this season due to a public health order in the state, but has produced on the field to sit on top of the group and in a strong position to reach the USL Championship Playoffs.

- Saturday night brings one of the more intriguing games of the weekend as Group B leader Phoenix Rising FC visits Group A leader Reno 1868 FC at Greater Nevada Field. The Arizona Republic’s Lorenzino Estrada has the view from Phoenix’s camp, where the side is looking to rebound from its surprise draw against Las Vegas Lights FC last weekend.

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