HCFC news & events
Mansfield, Conn. – For the second time in three seasons, Hartford City FC has advanced to the NPSL North Atlantic Conference Playoff Final after defeating the New York Shockers, 2-1, in the Semifinals on Wednesday night at Eastern Connecticut State University.
The second-seeded Colts will now hit the road on Saturday to face the top-seed in the North Atlantic Conference Playoffs, Kingston Stockade FC, with not only the Conference Playoff title on the line, but also a spot in the East Region Playoffs.
After being outscored 9-1 across the three regular-season meetings between the sides, it was the third-seeded Shockers who created the first scoring chance of the night. From a short corner kick routine in the second minute, Seth Scarano flicked a ball into the path of teammate Benjamin Kogan but was denied from close range by Hartford City goalie Jamis Fite.
The Shockers took the lead in the 11th minute as Pedro Espindola dispossessed Hartford City’s Griffin Tomas at midfield, then drove down the right flank before crossing a ball into the box that was missed by Fite and directed off Filippo Bellù into the back of the net.
New York, who was the defending North Atlantic Tournament Champions and knocked off Hartford City in last year’s semifinals, proceeded to sit in defensively and absorb pressure from the Colts, only going forward on a rare counterattack.
This allowed Hartford City to expand their point of attack, often utilizing Evan Southern on the left wing to stretch the Shockers’ defense, with Tomas sitting in behind him, to either drive at defenders or whip in crosses. Despite earning several corners and set pieces in the first half, the Colts only had a few shots on target in the first half. Two of them came from midfielder Patrick Osiecki, both of which were saved by Shockers’ goalie Ryan Henning.
The hosts earned a lifeline ten minutes before halftime when the referee called a handball on New York’s Connor DeFilippis, after Southern was played in behind by Tomas and his cross struck the arm of the Shockers defender. Matt McGonigle stepped up to the spot and coolly dispatched the penalty kick past Henning to level the score.
That 1-1 score line would hold up through halftime but it didn’t take the Colts long into the second half to make more impact on the scoresheet.
From a throw-in in the 52nd minute, Henry Hamilton laid a ball off into the path of Osiecki, who proceeded to make a 25-yard run past five Shockers’ defenders before firing a shot past Henning to give Hartford City a 2-1 lead. It was the first goal of the season for the Naugatuck, Conn. native and would eventually prove to be the winning tally.
Almost immediately from the restart, the Shockers created their most threatening chance to equalize as Byron Stewart-Drysdale launched a ball over to the top to Anthony Rouse, who took it down and raced past the last Hartford City defender. But Fite came up with a crucial one-on-one stop well off his line to protect the hosts’ lead.
Understanding at the time that a one-goal advantage may not be enough on the night, Hartford City pressed for an insurance goal. They nearly got it in the 61st minute when Diego Zaffanella picked out Southern with a cross to the back post and Southern got a clean shot off from 12 yards out, only to see Henning parry the effort wide.
Over the remaining half hour, the Shockers kept piling on the pressure in their quest to keep their season alive but never forced a save out of Fite. The visitors’ final chance of the night came in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time when Adel Cekic floated in a free kick towards substitute Daniel Josepher, who got a great leap but couldn’t keep the headed effort on target, and the final whistle blew moments after.
— Writer Credit: JJ Duke
— Photo Credit: Phil Zolla
July 15 at 3:14 pm