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USL review: Hartford Athletic to host Puerto Rico national team in friendly

Phoenix Rising won its 11th straight game, Nashville SC landed Forrest Lasso and Hartford Athletic announced a friendly vs. the Puerto Rico national team.

Hartford Athletic will play host to the Puerto Rico National Team on Saturday, August 17 at 5 p.m. ET in an international exhibition. (Photo USL / TJ Sallah / Hartford Athletic)

It’s been a bumpy first season in the USL Championship for expansion side Hartford Athletic.

The club has posted a 3-15-4 record in its first 22 games and sits in last in the Eastern Conference table. But a tumultuous first season hasn’t come without a few highs, such as a win in its first U.S. Open Cup, and a 2-1 home victory over Saint Louis FC on June 8.

Hartford hopes that Aug. 17 will be another bright spot for the club in its first season, when it hosts the Puerto Rico national team in a friendly at Dillon Stadium. Kickoff for that Saturday is set for 5 p.m.

According to the Hartford Courant, proceeds from the game will benefit Puerto Rico’s ongoing hurricane relief efforts. Tickets will go on-sale Thursday.

“Connecticut is home to among the largest and most vibrant Puerto Rican populations, and we are so proud and excited to welcome the Puerto Rican National Team to Hartford in our inaugural season,” Hartford Athletic Chairman and CEO Bruce Mandell said in a statement. “It is our mission to bring our community together through the world’s game and what better way to do it than to host an international friendly that will be a celebration of Puerto Rican culture.”

The exhibition is the first in the history for the club. Puerto Rico has called up players to its senior national team who feature in the USL Championship, such as OKC Energy goalkeeper Cody Laurendi and Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Shawn Barry. Three recent Puerto Rico call-ups play NCAA Division II soccer at Assumption College, which is just 63 miles north of Hartford.

Puerto Rico will likely use this game as a warm-up match before it begins play in the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League.  El Huracán Azul will open that tournament on Sept. 10 at home vs. Guatemala.

Things to know

  • Phoenix Rising FC broke a USL record on Saturday, as the club secured its 11th consecutive victory. A header in the 69th minute from Kevon Lambert gave Phoenix a 1-0 road win over Tulsa Roughnecks FC. Phoenix has the league’s best record by one point, and has the best goal differential with 13 more scores than New York Red Bulls II.
  • Birmingham Legion FC notched its third straight home shutout, beating the Charlotte Independence 1-0 on Saturday. The win moves the expansion side above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
  • North Carolina FC academy product Adam Armour was selected for the U.S. U-17 men’s national team camp that runs through Aug. 7 in Carson, California. The 16-year-old played with NCFC’s U-23 side in USL League Two this season.
  • In a 4-2 loss to North Carolina FC on Saturday, Atlanta United 2 fielded its youngest lineup in club history with an average age of 19.4 years-old. Garrison Tubbs made his professional debut and Will Vint scored his first professional goal. With the win, NCFC improved to 6-0-4 at home, extending its unbeaten streak.

North Carolina FC topped ATL UTD 2 on July 27, 2019 by a score of 4-2 in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

  • On Saturday, one of the Charleston Battery’s team buses was involved in an accident. Their match against the Swope Park Rangers was postponed and several players were evaluated at the hospital. All players and coaches were discharged with no serious injuries.

Transactions

  • Birmingham Legion FC announced the signing of defender Akeem Ward on Tuesday. Ward, 23, was the 14th overall pick by D.C. United in this past MLS SuperDraft. The Creighton University product appeared in one game with D.C. United and nine games with its USL affiliate, Loudoun United.
  • Ottawa Fury announced Tuesday that it had signed Guinean forward Hadji Barry. He comes back to the USL Championship after playing 14 games in the Israeli Premier League, where he scored three goals. Barry played college soccer at UCF and was drafted by Orlando City SC with the 13th overall pick in the 2016 SuperDraft. In 2018, he scored 19 goals in 36 games with Swope Park Rangers, which included a USL record eight-game scoring streak.
  • Last week, Sacramento Republic FC announced the sale of goalkeeper Josh Cohen to Maccabi Haifa FC of the Israeli Premier League. Cohen, 26, will arrive with his new club in time for their second round qualifying match against Ligue 1 side RC Strasbourg Alsace next week. Sacramento general manager Todd Dunivant called the move “bittersweet” while Cohen said he was “grateful” to the club, fans and city of Sacramento. In 56 appearances for the club, the Division II UC San Diego product tallied 21 clean sheets and was a finalist for the USL Goalkeeper of the Year last season. Maccabi Haifa FC finished second in the Israeli Premier League table last season. They have qualified for UEFA Champions League twice since 2002.
  • Nashville SC announced that it had acquired Forrest Lasso on-loan from MLS side FC Cincinnati for the remainder of the 2019 season. Lasso, 26, was the USL Championship Defender of the Year last season and had appeared in five MLS games this season. Two days after being acquired, Lasso started and played 90 minutes in Nashville’s 2-0 home win on Saturday over Indy Eleven. He had three clearances and added an interception.
  • Nashville SC also reached an agreement with MLS side San Jose Earthquakes to extend the loan of defender Jimmy Ockford through the end of the 2019 season.

Watch this

Lagos Kunga drops a dime.

Off the crossbar and in for Lewis Hilton.

Jahn and Lambert team-up for a game-winner.

JJ Williams from deep.

They said it

Birmingham Legion’s JJ Williams to AL.com: “We’re not just getting lucky, we’re playing good football.”

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith on Forrest Lasso: “I think he’s as good, if not the best center back that I saw last year in this league. Very dominant as an individual. He brings tremendous presence to any group, and I thought he led that back line for Cincinnati extremely well last year.”

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