Connecticut’s new pro soccer team is in the middle of filling out its inaugural roster in advance of the team’s first preseason game.
Hartford Athletic – which will play one tier beneath Major League Soccer inside the United Soccer League – already has enough players for a game day roster of 18. But head coach Jimmy Nielsen has invited five players from a recent open tryout to take part in training camp. Nielsen says the tryout selections will get a shot to compete with the men already on the team.
“They will all get minutes in our first preseason game against [The University of Hartford] on Saturday the ninth and then we’ll evaluate again after,” Nielsen said.
Two of those five players live in Connecticut. But one of them, Hami Kara of Wethersfield, has decided to decline the invitation so he could keep up with other responsibilities. He said he’ll continue to play goalkeeper for another Hartford Soccer team – the National Premier Soccer League’s Hartford City FC. West Haven’s Anthony Asante was the other of the Connecticut residents participating in the tryout that was invited to training camp.
In terms of the men already on the roster, the team already has a local guy -- Lakeville native Nicky Downs. Downs recently finished his senior campaign at Yale University and Nielsen said he has big expectations for Downs, but the transition to pro soccer from the amateur ranks is pushing Nielsen to take precautionary measures.
“The experience I have with players coming straight out of college -- this season here goes from February 1 until early November hopefully -- it’s a long season. They’re used to a shorter season and we’ve got to manage him the right way,” said Nielsen.
To play on his roster -- and on any USL team for that matter – Nielsen said a player needs to be physical and must be able to transition well from offense to defense.
He sees Downs as a “box-to-box” player with a “good engine on him.”
Hartford Athletic plays its first-ever regular season game on the road in Georgia on March 9.