After a disappointing start to the season, the Riverhounds are on the road for a second straight weekend when they visit Hartford Athletic on Saturday, May 15. The match is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff and will be shown locally on WPNT 22, The Point.
With 90 minutes to reflect on, here are some of the things to watch out for in the first of four meetings with Hartford:
1) Danny Danger
Quite frankly, the Hounds didn’t do a very good job sticking with the top two attacking threats of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Sebastián Guenzatti and Steevan Dos Santos, and the strike pairing took advantage of the space afforded them with a goal each.
Hartford presents a slightly different challenge, as their top threat, Danny Barrera, operates out of the midfield. The core principle should remain the same, however, against a player with two goals and an assist already this season — prevent Barrera from having too much time on the ball.
Look for the Hounds to make a concerted effort to stay tighter to the players they mark, and that begins with quickly identifying a dangerous player like Barrera wherever he pops up on the field.
2) Make yourself available
The Hounds only completed 69.1 percent of their passes against the Rowdies. While that may sound like a problem in and of itself, it was actually a symptom of a larger issue.
Too often, players on the Hounds’ back line didn’t have a good midfield option available for a pass, forcing the team to either go long or give the ball to Kenardo Forbes or Danny Griffin in a bad position. The advanced stats show how bad it was, as the team’s three center backs — Mekeil Williams, Shane Wiedt and Preston Kilwien — completed a total of 69 passes to other defenders or the goalkeeper and just 29 passes to a midfielder.
While the defenders need to be more positive with their passing, they will only be able to do that if the midfielders do a better job of getting to spots where they can receive the ball and transition from defending to attacking.
3) Home is where the Hartford is
For Alex Dixon, Saturday will be a homecoming, as he returns to the city he played in for the past two seasons and where his wife still works.
Dixon, who was Hartford’s scoring leader in the club’s first two years of existence, should get a warm reception from the crowd. But also expect him to be highly motivated in his return to Dillon Stadium, as he looks to get the best of his former team by getting his new club into the win column.