Hartford’s new pro soccer team made its debut in front of a home crowd Saturday, May 4.
Hartford Athletic played Charlotte Independence to a 1-1 tie at East Hartford’s Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field before 11,346 fans.
One of those fans was Len Williams from Waterbury. He energized the crowd by banging on a bass drum for a good portion of the game.
“This is a good thing for Hartford,” Williams said. “We’ve needed a soccer team for the longest [time]. I think it’ll be good. Everybody is behind it so far and hopefully it’ll work.”
The team had lost eight straight away games to open its inaugural season. Coach Jimmy Nielsen’s side was in need of a boost from the crowd in match nine. He said after the game that the support was so strong that it did just that – particularly when the team needed it the most in the final minutes.
“Of course they were important the whole game,” Nielsen said. “But, when we really needed them or when we were extremely tired and exhausted -- we had two or three guys cramping up a little bit -- and there came a lot of positive energy from the stands those last 10 minutes. I think they helped us coming through the game here.”
Nielsen’s squad trailed early after Independence forward Abdoulie Mansally converted a counter-attack into a goal with a left-footed shot past Athletic goalkeeper Jacob Lissek.
But, Hartford wasn’t behind for long. Eight minutes after Mansally’s goal, Athletic forward Mac Steeves chipped in a ball from about 12 yards out to tie the game up at 1.
The tie gave Hartford its first point in the United Soccer League Standings. Athletic faces Memphis 901 FC in its next game on Friday, May 10 in East Hartford.
Athletic is temporarily calling East Hartford’s Pratt and Whitney Stadium home – it’s scheduled to play at a renovated Dillon Stadium in downtown Hartford this July.