The time has finally come for Connecticut’s newest pro soccer team to debut in the Hartford area.
The Hartford Athletic professional soccer team debuts at home this Saturday night at East Hartford’s Pratt & Whitney Stadium.
But the team isn’t coming home with momentum on their side.
“It’s been a brutal schedule – not only eight away games, but there’s been brutal opponents too,” said head coach Jimmy Nielsen.
Hartford didn’t win any of those road games and now, the Athletic is the only United Soccer League team without a single point.
It’s hard to get momentum on the road. Midfielder Ryan Williams said that becomes evident when the home team finds the back of the net.
“You can see the swing of play and the balance of play completely change,” Williams said. “The dynamic of the game changes. A large part of that has to with the atmosphere that surrounds the game.”
The Athletic has scored just four goals all year. But opponents are averaging three goals per game against Williams and his teammates.
“It’s going to be an amazing feeling for us to finally step out in front of our home fans and for us to have that advantage for the first time this season,” Williams said.
Where home will be this weekend for the Athletic differs from the new clubs permanent home to be. It’s slated to play at a renovated Dillon Stadium in downtown Hartford, but not until July 13.
The home debut will happen instead at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. It’ll be a homecoming for Lakeville native Nicky Downs.
“The fact that Dillon’s not done yet has kind of thrown a wrench in things, but the fact that now we get to play in Rentschler Stadium where I’ve kind of grown up watching national team games is definitely a pretty special thing,” Downs said.
The Yale alum said his parents, his sister and a bunch of friends from college will be there to watch him play.
Coach Jimmy Nielsen said the team could use a boost from the home crowd.
“We have a little low confidence right now and it will be lovely to come home and play – get some love from the fans in the stands and make them proud,” Nielsen said.
Hartford hosts the Charlotte Independence Saturday, May 4 at 7 p.m.