Newton, Mass. – After an unbeaten start to the 2024 National Premier League Soccer (NPSL) Regular Season, Hartford City FC (2-1-1, 7 points) suffered their first loss of the campaign on Saturday night by dropping a 2-1 decision in the final minutes on the road at Valeo FC (1-2-1, 4 points).

Despite the defeat, Hartford City maintained a top-two spot in the North Atlantic Conference standings as they currently sit three points behind division front runners New York Shockers but one point ahead of New Jersey United AC and Syracuse FC.

It was a quick start for the hosts as Harvard University product Ben Kelly hit the back of the net for the second consecutive match. An early service into the in the box forced HCFC keeper Nate DiLoreto to make a reaction save initially with the rebound dropping to Kelly, to tap in the 6th minute goal to give Valeo the early lead. However, Colts Jake Williams delivered a captains’ goal inside the final ten minutes of the first half to equalize. The Colts continued to press for the go ahead before halftime, when Mark Grant collected a pass centrally driving through the middle of the pitch, sending shot from 25 yards out that hit the crossbar, bounced down and out, narrowly missing the chance. Both sides settled going into halftime at 1-1.

Evan Jones, who scored for Hartford City in last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Kingston Stockade, came close to giving the visitors a lead in the 52nd minute when he reached Evan Southern’s cross and powered a shot towards goal, only to see Valeo’s goalie Leonard Seidel palm it wide. Minutes later, Williams nearly snuck a free kick past Seidel when he curled one from outside the box into the corridor of uncertainty, only to see it fizz by the wrong side of the post.

Throughout the majority of the second half, the hosts didn’t provide much of a threat going forward, but in the last few minutes of normal time, DiLoreto made a smothering save on Ben Kelly’s rushed effort after running down a long clearance from the Valeo defense.

But the hosts would win the match in dramatic fashion as Michael Echavarria blasted a half-volley from the penalty spot from a corner kick in the third minute of second half stoppage time, a goal worthy of winning any match.

HCFC had multiple chances in the final moments to find another equalizing tally. First, Southern clipped in a free kick into the box that Valeo was just able to scramble off the goal line after Colin Goodhines had a tight angle shot blocked, and Southern rocketed the rebound wide of goal. Moments later, Alonzo Clarke picked out Southern on the edge of the box and he forced Siedel into a save, with the hosts clearing away the rebound for a corner. Williams swung in the ensuing corner and Griffin Tomas had both his initial header from the set piece and his putback from the rebound was blocked away. The referee blew the whistle right after Valeo cleared the box, halting any further chances the Colts could muster to level the score.

Hartford City return to action on Saturday, June 1st when they face off against Syracuse FC. The Colts will play this home match at Oakwood Soccer Park (521 Glastonbury Turnpike, Portland, CT, 06480), due to Trinity Health Stadium being unavailable that evening, and kickoff is scheduled for 7pm. Fans should keep an eye out on the clubs’ social media channels for more information about next Saturday’s match in the coming days.

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