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Union II unable to overcome mistakes in loss to playoff-bound Hartford Athletic

Former Reading United winger Alex Dixon had a brace for the visitors

Shivant Krishnan

Starting the same lineup for the first time in franchise history in back-to-back games, the Philadelphia Union II were able to create a number of chances but the story of the game was a couple of mistakes in the back that led to a 3-0 win for Hartford Athletic on Sunday in Chester.

“We saw early on in the match mistakes that came back to punish us against a more mature, more physical, stronger, older team,” interim head coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “And then it took us a little bit too long to grow into the game, and we did grow into the game missing really good chances to be in it.”

Former Reading United winger Alex Dixon was the danger man for the visitors, scoring goals on either side of halftime. He opened the scoring in the 8th minute Ever Guzman lofted a ball over the back line and the flag stayed down, leaving him one v one with Union first team goalkeeper Matt Freese, who he was able to beat with a good strike.

Dixon was involved in the build-up again five minutes later when he picked off a pass just outside the box from Jamoi Topey and played Guzman into the box. Topey rushed back to make a play on Guzman and was able to hit the ball loose but the goal-bound deflection ended up crossing the line before Anton Sorenson could reach it to keep it out.

Down 2-0, Union II started to find their way and were able to create chances through future homegrowns Jack McGlynn, Paxten Aaronson and Nathan Harriel combining with Axel Picazo and Patrick Bohui, who was denied by a strong save from Parfait Mandanda just before halftime after he was played in by McGlynn with a ball from midfield. Harriel’s long range pass earlier in the half to Picazo also came agonizingly close to cutting the lead in half but his shot on the run just narrowly missed the far post.

“I think we just came out kind of quiet, we didn’t really communicate as a team,” Axel Picazo said. “During halftime we had a talk with the coach and everyone and it kind of hit us so second half we came out, stronger, with more energy, with more purpose.”

The bright attacking moments didn’t lead to a break through and instead it was a miscommunication in the back that led to another Dixon goal in the 58th minute to make it 3-0.

Despite the disappointment of seeing another mistake lead to a goal when they were finding opportunities on the other end, the Union II showed fight and didn’t allow the game to get away from them. They finished the game with 58 percent of the possession and outshot Hartford 18-8.

Caden Stafford, coming off scoring his first professional goal against Loudoun United, was active playing the final 45 minutes while Quinn Sullivan checked in with just under a half hour left to make his first appearance since August 5.

“I think he’s got some of his better days still to come with some more playing time,” LeBlanc said of Stafford.

Union II will get another crack at Hartford, which clinched a spot in the playoffs with Sunday’s win, on Wednesday night on the road.

“I thought second half particularly in this game we influenced it a lot more, we did a lot more of what the objective was from the start and I’m hopeful that we can go out and do it again in three days time,” LeBlanc said.

HFD – Alex Dixon (Guzman) 8’
HFD – Jamoi Topey (own goal) 13’
HFD – Alex Dixon (unassisted) 58’

PHI – Dante Huckaby (caution) 34’HFD – Sam Strong (caution) 44’HFD – Tyreke Johnson (caution) 90’


Philadelphia Union II: Matt Freese, Nathan Harriel, Dante Huckaby, Jamoi Topey (Danny Flores 45’), Anthony Sorenson, Jack McGlynn, Steve Kingue (David Rabadán 63’), Brandan Craig, Axel Picazo (Quinn Sullivan 63’), Paxten Aaronson, Patrick Bohui (Caden Stafford 45’)

Substitutes not used: Mitch Budler, Selmir Miscic, Jack Jasinski

Hartford Athletic: Parfait Mandanda, Matheus Silva, Sam Strong (Alejandro Lara 67’), Tyreke Johnson, Kevin Politz, Idan Cohen (Arthur Rogers 66’), Danny Barrera (Michael Downs 75’), Justin Haak, Aiden Mesias (Mads Jorgensen 67’), Alex Dixon, Ever Guzman (Markus Naglestad 75’)

Substitutes not used: Gabriel Torres, Michael Novotny