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Hartford Athletic Looking Toward Second Season After Challenging Inaugural Campaign

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
Hartford Athletic midfielder Phil Rasmussen takes an indirect free kick during the second half of Athletic's home opener at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on May 4, 2019.

Hartford Athletic soccer recently finished up its first season in the United Soccer League, winning 8 of 34 games played.

Despite the losing season and the team already parting ways with its coach, management calls the inaugural season a success.

“We did very well considering the circumstances,” said Donovan Powell, the team’s chief operating officer. “At one point, we actually played in three different stadiums within a month.”

Athletic didn’t get to play in its true home – a renovated Dillon Stadium – until it had played more than half of its games.

“But the community really rallied around the team and supported us,” Powell said. “In terms of an attendance perspective, we averaged over 5,000 fans per game, which ranked in the top third of our league.”

Powell believes that the team could sell out a majority of its games next year in Athletic’s first full season at Dillon Stadium. He also highlighted the team’s ability to get Athletic merchandise in front of more people at places like Walmart and Bradley International Airport as ways the team is catching on with fans.

“We really measure financial success on ticket sales, sponsorship, concessions, parking and merchandise,” Powell said. “We feel like we have an opportunity to hone in and improve on all aspects of our business operation.”

After the season, Athletic announced that coach Jimmy Nielsen wouldn’t return for 2020.

The team declined to discuss the coaching change in an interview, instead sending a written statement via email that characterized the move as a mutual parting of the ways.

“We would like to thank Jimmy for his contributions to our organization and all his efforts in launching our club in its inaugural season,” said Bruce Mandell, CEO of Hartford Athletic. “Jimmy has provided the foundation for our club, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Connecticut Public Radio wasn’t able to reach Nielsen for comment.

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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