Loudoun United’s had a variety of circumstance and bad luck happen to them over the course of their first few games of 2021, and after playing two games over four weeks the team has been dialing into some sort of playing rhythm, with their fourth game over a two week and change period, with tonight’s game being the 2nd of a three-game road trip, and unfortunately for them, it comes against an all-too-familiar face.
Because of how the 2019 and 2020 seasons shook out, Loudoun will play Hartford Athletic at Dillon Stadium for the fifth time in the last 11 months and the sixth straight time overall, dating back to a 5-1 loss in September 2019. While Hartford has outscored Loudoun 16-6 over the last five games, 12 of those occurred in the first three games, because Coach Ryan Martin managed to acclimate to what Hartford was doing and played them close, with three of the four goals in the last two games occurring after the 75th minute. Last year’s Hartford coach Radhi Jaidi returned to England, replaced by 31-year-old Harry Watling, in his first pro head coaching job after years of coaching at Academies at Chelsea, West Ham United and Millwall.
So can Loudoun beat Hartford? It’s possible, but requires a collective elevation of attention and effort.
Key player: Timmy Mehl
Loudoun’s captain was working with Academy players a lot last season against Loudoun, and this season he’s been working next to more seasoned back liners (tonight, presumably Robby Dambrot and D.C. United loanee Michael DeShields), against a Hartford team whose expected goals this season is just under 6, but their goals scored has been more than double that (14), to go with a stingier than expected defense. Cinching down in the back will help a bunch.
Location: Dillon Stadium (Hartford, CT)
Kickoff time: 7:00 pm Eastern
Projected Loudoun starting 11/who D.C. is loaning: Along with DeShields, Jacob Greene and Jovanny Bolivar return for another game, with Bolivar’s 18 shots coming in third in the league and his two goals in six games leading the team.
Most of the team who played in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay will presumably be back for this one, with one question being whether or not Kairou Amoustapha is still quarantining after appearing for Niger in a friendly game in Turkey during the international window. Even as a substitute he’d be one to watch, and hopefully Greene (or Gaossou Samake if available) can provide danger on the outside.
Starters: Keegan Meyer; DeShields, Mehl, Dambrot; Greene, Nicky Downs, Jeremy Garay, Samake; Ted Ku-DiPietro; Bolivar, Darluis Paz
Bench: Jermaine Fordah, Wahab Ackwei, Logan Panchot, Barry Sharifi, Amoustapha, Landry Houssou, Sammy Sergi
Key Hartford player/former D.C. players: Danny Barrera
There are some potential familiar MLS names, but the 31-year-old USL veteran is 2nd in career assists in the USL Championship (38) with several teams and leads the league in assists so far with 5, to go along with 4 goals, 2 off the league lead for that. Barrera scorched Loudoun for chances last year with a goal and three assists over those four games. Hartford has a few dangerous weapons like Preston Etaka and Honduras National Team player Juan Carlos Obregon, but taking Barrera out of things will be key.
Referee: Christian Centeno
Available streaming: ESPN+ (click to subscribe to ESPN+, and your friends at B&RU get a little bit of cash!)
What are you drinking?: I have a couple of cans from the Hill releases from Nashville’s Southern Grist Brewing, so I’ll have those if things get out of hand.
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