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Hartford Athletic 2022 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/03/22, 5:00PM EST


2022 Outlook

Having reached the USL Championship Playoffs in 2020, Hartford Athletic’s failure to do so again last season could be viewed as a step back. That wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, however, as new Head Coach Harry Watling’s side proved itself capable of competing with most opponents while coming up short on consistency in arguably the most top-heavy division lineup from a season ago.

The Athletic claimed a season series win against Miami FC, but an overall 1-9-2 record against the top three of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Charlotte Independence and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC made the decisive difference to Hartford falling out of playoff contention as the season ended. There were plenty of bright spots, however, with evergreen playmaker Danny Barrera earning the Championship’s Assists Champion award with 12 assists, while goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell set a league record with five penalty kick saves during the regular season.

Caldwell has headed west to join Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, with the Athletic having recruited former Independence goalkeeper Austin Pack as his likely replacement, but Barrera returns alongside a collection of other key figures such as forward Juan Carlos Obregon Jr., and defenders Tulu and Younes Boudadi. Watling has also looked to add more speed in the attacking third with local product Rashawn Dally and Liberian winger Prince Saydee coming aboard, and more experience in the middle of the field through Jamaican midfielders Peter-Lee Vassell and Andre Lewis. The aim will be for the new group to find greater consistency, and a route back to the postseason in the process.

Notable Arrivals

Andre Lewis – Jamaican midfielder was acquired via transfer from Colorado Springs

Peter-Lee Vassell – Jamaican international can provide creativity in attacking third

Austin Pack – Former Charlotte Independence goalkeeper will likely be starter for new season

Rashawn Dally – Local standout returns to northeast after helping Memphis to playoffs last season

Notable Departures

Jeff Caldwell – Goalkeeper signed as free agent with Colorado Springs after big season

Walmer Martinez – El Salvador international was transferred to Monterey Bay F.C.

Tabort Etaka Preston – Signed with New Mexico United as free agent

Derek Dodson – Signed with Memphis 901 FC after loan stint from Orlando City SC

Two To Watch

Danny Barrera, Midfielder

For some players, passing the age of 30 might mean slowing down. For Danny Barrera, the past two seasons at Hartford Athletic have shown how the most talented players will find a way to remain creative and competitive. The 2021 Championship Assists Champion with 12 assists, Barrera appears set to duel with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Kenardo Forbes this year for the league’s all-time regular season lead. If that duel is coupled with more productivity from the Athletic’s forward line off Barrera’s supply, then it could mean a chance to return to the playoffs for Hartford.

Rashawn Dally, Midfielder

A Connecticut native, Rashawn Dally returns home for the 2022 season after helping Memphis 901 FC earn its first postseason berth last campaign. A former MLS SuperDraft pick by FC Cincinnati – for which he made 16 appearances while also going on loan in 2019 to Memphis and 2020 to Las Vegas Lights FC – Dally’s speed in attack should prove a useful weapon for Head Coach Harry Watling’s style of play. If Dally can find his feet quickly at Dillon Stadium, he will become a hometown favorite in a hurry.


Harry Watling (2nd Season)

Faced with a difficult division lineup in the Atlantic a season ago, Harry Watling’s first season on the professional sidelines will have given him plenty of information to work with in Year 2 at Hartford as he continues to build the club’s on-field identity. The former Chelsea and West Ham Academy coach will be one to watch as he tries to emulate the on-field success of his young British contemporaries currently in the league.

Key Number

44Hartford Athletic playmaker Danny Barrera has recorded 44 regular-season assists in the Championship after winning last season’s Assists Champion award with 12. That puts him only one behind Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Kenardo Forbes for the all-time lead in the Championship’s regular season going into 2022.

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