NEW BRITAIN - For Hartford City FC, Saturdayâ€™s game at CCSU was a learning experience.
Against the undefeated New York Cosmos B, the top club in the National Premier Soccer League, Hartford City played well at times.
Hartford generated plenty of opportunities, with Kieran Simms scoring an equalizing goal at the 43-minute mark.
But Hartford City manager Christian Benjamin said simple, preventable mistakes on Cityâ€™s end led to two Cosmos goals - Danny Szetelaâ€™s final go-ahead tally in the 67th minute and Darwin Espinalâ€™s shot that found the bottom corner of the net in the 19th - and a loss.
â€śWe need to work on finishing. Itâ€™s the last step,â€ť Hartford City midfielder Lamar Chancey said. â€śWe just need to capitalize and take the chances. For the most part, I thought we played well.â€ť
City midfielder Luke Albertini added, â€śI think we had a couple chances where we could have put the ball in the back of the net but missed. Thatâ€™s soccer.â€ť
Hartford City came into the match knowing what it needed to do and had devised a game plan for countering New Yorkâ€™s offensive style of play. Perhaps the most frustrating part was knowing it worked well and that the match result could have easily swung in Cityâ€™s favor.
â€śOur game plan was to sit in a little bit,â€ť Chancey said. â€śWe knew that they were going to press the ball. We sat and then counter attacked and it worked. We could have easily of won the game.â€ť
But those ups and downs are also part of being a new club. Hartford City was established in 2016 and just started playing last year.
Over the past season and a half, the club has been working and aiming toward growing its program as a whole. In the future, it hopes to make the jump from semi-professional to a full-fledged professional franchise.
â€śItâ€™s just an honor to play against the storied Cosmos,â€ť Benjamin said. â€śI think for Hartford City, itâ€™s very important because the Cosmos attract a certain crowd; and because of their history, obviously they have a little bit more prestige. So for the city, for the NPSL and for us, this was a great game.â€ť
Hartford is also attempting to build a following of its own for its home matches at CCSU and Clem Lemire Field in Newington. On Saturday, there were people ranging from six months of age to over 70 filling the stands.
â€śThatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about,â€ť Benjamin said. â€śItâ€™s disappointing that we lost, but Iâ€™m happy with the product we put on the field. Iâ€™m happy with the organization of Hartford City as a whole, creating this game experience for people, and the most important thing is weâ€™re having fun.â€ť
Benjamin stressed that with lower league soccer, there has to be that enjoyment factor.
â€śThereâ€™s families out there just enjoying the atmosphere,â€ť Benjamin said. â€śYou can hear people yelling and screaming in the crowd. Theyâ€™re excited and thatâ€™s what we want.â€ť
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org