Hartford Athletic clinched its first trip to the postseason in club history with a victory against the Philadelphia Union II, Reno 1868 FC put up another five-goal performance to take victory against the Portland Timbers 2, and Sacramento Republic FC was held to a 3-3 draw by Tacoma Defiance to drop five points back of 1868 FC in the Group A standings in Sunday evening’s action in the USL Championship.
CHESTER, Pa. – Alex Dixon scored twice as Hartford clinched a place in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs with victory against the Union II at Subaru Park.
The Athletic got out to an early lead in the eighth minute when a long pass up the left flank by Tyreke Johnson played Ever Guzman in behind a high Union II back line. Guzman delivered a first-time pass centrally to Alex Dixon, and the veteran forward shot low into the left corner from 15 yards.
Five minutes later Hartford doubled its lead as the visitors turned possession over just outside the Union II penalty area allowing Dixon to quickly slip a pass forward to Guzman. The Mexican shaped to shoot, but a challenge by Philadelphia defender Jamoi Topey inadvertently sent the ball past his own goalkeeper and just over the line for an own goal.
The hosts came into the game more after their slow start and Paxten Aaronson almost cut into the deficit with a shot from 25 yards that went just wide of the right post. Axel Picazo also had a chance in the 29th minute but his lifted finish past advancing Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda slid wide of the left post. Mandanda was then called on again late in the first half as Anges Bohui fired a low shot after a good pass into the left side of the penalty area by Jack McGlynn.
Dixon notched his second of the game just before the hour-mark as he capitalized on a moment of confusion in the Union II penalty area, however. Dixon’s initial effort to find Idan Cohen with a pass inside the penalty area was intercepted, but the ball deflected between two Union II defenders and allowed Dixon to quickly regain possession. He then rounded goalkeeper Matt Freese and tucked his finish into the open net, sealing all three points and a place in the postseason for the Athletic.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Alex Dixon, Hartford Athletic – Dixon scored twice, helped set up the Athletic’s third goal and completed 17 of 24 passes overall to lead his side in a comfortable victory.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Christiano Francois scored twice as Reno 1868 FC took a three-goal halftime lead and then pulled away late after T2 cut its deficit to one in the second half in a helter-skelter contest at Providence Park.
Looking to maintain its lead at the top of Group A, Reno went close to opening the scoring in the 17th minute when Foster Langsdorf rang a low shot from the right side of the penalty area off the left post as the ball caromed away to safety. The breakthrough arrived for the visitors two minutes later, however, as Younes Boudadi delivered a low ball from the right flank across the top of the six-yard area where Francois was on hand to tuck home a finish at the far post.
Boudadi added his second assist of the night in the 37th minute as he delivered a flighted cross from the right to the far post that found Foster Langsdorf, who looped his header back across goal into the right side of the net for his seventh consecutive game with a goal. Langsdorf is now one shy of the Championship record for consecutive games with a goal, trailing the mark set by Hadji Barry for Sporting Kansas City II in 2018.
Just before halftime, Reno added a third as Sam Gleadle intercepted a Portland corner kick being sent outside the top of the penalty area and immediately sprang forward on the counterattack. Gleadle drove right to draw away from the covering defender and then fired into the bottom-left corner of the net from just outside the penalty area arc. The visitors then almost made it four in stoppage time as Corey Hertzog volleyed a shot from just outside the penalty area off a chipped free kick by Emilio Ycaza that was tipped over the crossbar by T2 goalkeeper Jake Leeker.
T2 tried to turn the game around in the second half, and Aaron Molloy forced a good save by Reno goalkeeper Eric De La Cerda in the 48th minute with a shot from the right side of the penalty area. Marcus Epps then produced an outstanding finish nine minutes later, curling a finish from 25 yards into the top-right corner of the net that left De La Cerda little chance to pull a goal back for the hosts with his second goal in as many games.
Then with 11 minutes to go Jorge Gonzalez added a second for T2 with a powerful shot from just left of the top of the penalty area that De La Cerda got a hand to but couldn’t keep out of the net. Reno restored a two-goal lead two minutes later, however, as Francois notched his second of the night from close range after Sergio Rivas got in behind the Portland defense on the right before delivering a low cross for the Haitian international to finish.
1868 FC wrapped up all three points with two minutes to go as Rivas was played into the left channel by Francois, and his low cross was met by a first-time finish by Aidan Apodaca to the left side of the net.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Christiano Francois, Reno 1868 FC – Francois scored twice, had three key passes, completed 4 of 5 dribbles and 18 of 23 passes to lead 1868 FC’s attack in another stellar performance
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Rodrigo Lopez scored a late equalizer as Sacramento was held to a draw by a Tacoma side that twice held the lead in the second 3-3 draw between Republic FC and the Defiance at Papa Murphy’s Park this season on Sunday night.
For the second time this season, Tacoma grabbed an early lead against their hosts as a long clearance wasn’t controlled properly by either side until it came to the feet of Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, who quickly slotted a pass for Jesus Perez into the left side of the area allowing Perez to roof his finish.
Sacramento thought it had found an equalizer just before the half-hour mark, but the offside flag was raised as Villyan Bijev put away a finish into the right corner from the left side of the penalty area. Three minutes into the second half, however, Bijev got his goal as a ball over the top down the left by Hayden Sargis found Sam Werner in space, and he delivered a low ball across the top of the six-yard area that Bijev slid in to finish first time.
Republic FC then took the lead on the hour-mark as a corner by Bijev from the right found Drew Skundrich, whose header went off the arm of Perez to give the hosts a penalty kick. Kharlton Belmar stepped up to the spot and converted with a low shot to the left side of the net as T2 goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky went the other way. Six minutes later, however, Tacoma leveled as after a scramble in the penalty area after a corner kick from the left, the ball dropped to Alec Diaz, who fired a shot that hit a defender and found the back of the net.
Sacramento almost regained the lead with 17 minutes to go as Belmar managed to cut a cross from the right side of the penalty area back toward Jaime Villarreal, and while Villarreal didn’t make clean contact with his effort the ball reached Dariusz Formella, whose shot came off the underside of the crossbar and came back out.
Tacoma instead regained the lead in the 86th minute as a clearance by Klenofsky was controlled in midfield by Marlon Vargas. His pass into the right channel found Ray Serrano, who proceeded to power home a finish into the bottom-left corner of the net. But Sacramento found an equalizer in the 90th minute as a cross from the right deflected off a Tacoma defender and came straight to Lopez, who controlled and then fired home into the right side of the net. Lopez had a final chance in stoppage time to try and grab victory, but his curling shot couldn’t beat Klenofsky as the hosts had to settle for a point.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Kharlton Belmar, Sacramento Republic FC – Belmar scored once, completed 16 of 17 passes and won 4 of 6 duels while also completing 2 of 2 dribbles to continue his recent good run of form.