HARTFORD, Conn. – Walmer Martinez scored his first two goals for Hartford Athletic as the hosts took a 2-0 victory against the Charleston Battery on Tuesday night at Dillon Stadium as Danny Barrera also notched an assist to move into the league-lead with 12 this season with one game to go in the campaign.
The visitors almost grabbed an early lead when a corner kick from the left by Burke Fahling was sent to back post where Logan Gdula knocked the ball back across goal, and after a deflection off a defender came to Joel Bunting for a lunging effort that saw him sent the ball just over the crossbar. Hartford tried to find an opening of its own in the 11th minute, but Battery goalkeeper Paul Lewis anticipated a cross from the right by Younes Boudadi well to intercept at the near post as Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. threatened to turn the delivery home.
The Athletic opened the scoring five minutes before halftime, however, when a cross from the left by Arthur Rogers was half-cleared by the Charleston defense to the top of the penalty area where it came to Barrera, who controlled and fired a shot that Lewis turned onto the left upright. The ball caromed back across the six-yard area to Martinez and the El Salvador international put home his first goal in Hartford colors to add to his goals in 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying and the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup earlier this year.
Martinez had another effort from beyond the penalty area just before the hour-mark saved by Lewis as did Derek Dodson as the hosts tried to add to their lead. A few minutes later Puerto Rico international Nicolas Cardona went closer for the Athletic when he sent a near-post header off a delivery by Barrera from the left following a shot corner just wide of the left upright.
Hartford carved out another good opportunity in the 64th minute when Boudadi’s delivery to the back post from the right found Dodson for a header back to the top of the six-yard area, where Martinez chested the ball into the path of Preston Tabort Etaka for a first-time shot that bounced just wide of the left upright.
Martinez notched his second goal of the night with 20 minutes to go, however, as the hosts moved upfield on the right side from the back moving through Barrera to the El Salvador international, who saw Lewis off his line as he moved into the right channel and quickly curled a shot around a challenging defender that the goalkeeper got a hand to but couldn’t keep out, moving Barrera ahead of Phoenix Rising FC’s Aodhan Quinn for sole possession of first in the race for the league’s Assist Champion.
Charleston tried to hit back with 13 minutes go to when Stavros Zarokostas found space at the top-left edge of the penalty area and fired a shot that Hartford goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell saved, while three minutes later Tabort Etaka did well to control and regain his footing after sliding in the wet conditions as he ran onto a pass down the right before cutting to the edge of the penalty area and sending a curling shot just wide of the left post.
The Cameroonian then almost set up Jeciel Cedeno for the hosts in the 83rd minute as he clipped a pass beyond his marker on the right and then chased onto the ball before delivering a low, sweeping cross to the back post for a shot that was nicely saved by Lewis as he came off his line. The Athletic closed out the game from there, however, to close out their home schedule with a win.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Walmer Martinez, Hartford Athletic – Martinez finally broke through at the club level as his first professional season neared its conclusion with two goals and also completed 22 of 26 passes and 2 of 2 dribbles in a strong attacking performance.
HFD – Walmer Martinez 40’
HFD – Walmer Martinez (Danny Barrera) 70’