PITTSBURGH, Penn. (WTNH) — Hartford Athletic entered play Saturday night with an outside chance to win Group F if the club won the three matches remaining on their schedule. But, you can’t win three matches without winning the first.
Considering Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC had outscored Hartford 8-0 in the first two meetings combined, the odds for a win looked slim. Saturday night the Boys in Green overcame those odds to do just that, with a 1-0 road win over Pittsburgh.
Athletic got on the board first when Ever Guzman ran down a lofted long ball off the foot of Alex Dixon, got behind the defender, and beat the keeper coming out of the net for the score.
Pittsburgh got a huge break in their effort to come back in the 71st minute when Hartford goalie Parfait Mandanda got tangled up with a Riverhounds attacker and got sent off with a red card when he shoved the Pittsburgh player.
So, Athletic played a man down for the final 20-plus minutes, Mike Novotny made his USL debut and was tasked with taking Mandanda’s place. Pittsburgh got numerous scoring chances, especially in the closing minutes of regulation and the stoppage time. But Novotny and the Athletic back line stood tall to secure the win and the three points.
The huge win put on quite a show for a group of people watching the match in a unique way back in Connecticut. Athletic held its first-ever drive-in watch party at The Shops at Farmington Valley in Canton. Fans were able to drive in for some socially-distanced tailgating and to watch the big win.
Hartford now controls its own destiny to finish at the top of Group F and host a first round playoff match at Dillon Stadium.
That chase for home field in the USL playoffs continues Wednesday night when Athletic visits Philadelphia Union II. You can catch that match at 7 p.m. live on WCTX or streaming live on WTNH.com.