Amateur side Oyster Bay United FC’s run in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup came to an end Thursday night, as USL Championship side Hartford Athletic patiently marched to a 3-1 victory at rain-soaked Trinity Health Stadium.
For Hartford, it was their second opening round win in the club’s second appearance in the tournament since joining the USL Championship in 2019.
Oyster Bay went toe-to-toe with Hartford for the duration of the first half, which saw no goals and only a handful of chances. In the 17th minute, Hartford’s Joel Johnson put in a cross that was headed by a Oyster Bay defender to the left foot of Mitchell Curry, who put the ball off the post.
Oyster Bay countered with an attack of their own in the 23rd minute, where a pass from the left side of the box from Sebastin Ruiz fell to the foot of Junior Rosero at the top of the six yard box, but Hartford defender Modou Jadama deflected away the certain goal.
Hartford Athletic would have one more chance right before the halftime whistle, when the Oyster Bay goalkeeper misplayed a cross and it fell to the foot of Mitchell Curr. But Curry was unable to wrangle the bouncing ball and put his shot over the crossbar.
Hartford Athletic finally broke through in the 49th minute, when Johnson headed home a corner kick into the back of the net. The Liberian-born defender joined Hartford Athletic less than a month ago following a six-season stint with the Charlotte Independence.
Hartford’s Walid “Tulu” Yacoubou picked up a yellow card in the 55th minute for needlessly prolonging a throw-in attempt, and nearly picked up another three minutes later when he took down Sebastian Ruiz in the box with a slide tackle. He avoided the second yellow card despite fierce protest from the Oyster Bay players, but the penalty was awarded, and Junior Rosero coolly slotted the ball inside the left post while the keeper guessed right.
The chance of a United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) team upsetting a Championship side remained a distinct possibility until the 70th minute, when Hartford’s Luke Prpa fired a shot that deflected off Oyster Bay goalkeeper Jean Perez into the net. Prpa’s second goal with the club gave Hartford a 2-1 lead, and the hosts never looked back.
Tulu’s earlier yellow card again seemed relevant in the 82nd minute, when he took down Oyster Bay’s Dillon Woods with a standing tackle and then appeared to bounce the ball off Wood’s face. Despite another fierce round of protest from the Oyster Bay players and staff, the official decided to let Tulu off with a stern warning again.
Hartford Athletic cemented their victory in the dying embers of the game with a stoppage-time goal. Rashawn Dally’s slick pass found another Liberian-born player — this time winger Prince Saydee — to go up, 3-1. Saydee joined Hartford from Phoenix Rising FC in the offseason.
“It was a professional performance,” said Hartford head coach Harry Watling. “I have to congratulate our players first of all … halftime, calmness in the locker room. We knew what we needed to do to unlock the opposition. These games are so difficult. We’ve seen the amount of Championship teams that have been knocked out already.”
“I thought we were patient, I thought we broke them down and I was really happy with the second half performance,” added Watling.
With this victory, Hartford Athletic will be the only team from New England in the next phase of the competition, as the New England Revolution will not join the competition until the Fourth Round.
— Hartford Athletic (@hfdathletic) April 8, 2022
Hartford will learn their Third Round opponent on Friday at Noon. They will be grouped with D.C. United (MLS), FC Motown (NPSL), Flower City Union (NISA), New York Red Bulls (MLS), Rochester NY FC (MLSNP).
Founded in 2018, this victory marked Hartford’s third game in Open Cup competition, and their second-ever win in the competition. The club’s first win came in 2019 when they defeated New York Cosmos B of the NPSL in the Second Round by the score of 2-1 at the University of Hartford. They would fall in the next round, on the road at Memphis 901 FC (USL Championship)
While Oyster Bay was eliminated from the competition, surviving to the second round was an accomplishment for a squad that almost almost ceased to exist just a year ago. Formerly known as Queens Meadow FC, the club nearly folded in the spring of 2021, but a last ditch effort from players and the Long Island Sound community saved the franchise, albeit with a slightly more colorful moniker