A determined Boston City fought hard to earn a deserved point on the road in a 3-3 draw away to Hartford City in the opening match of the 2019 National Premier Soccer League season.
Three times the Lions trailed and three times the young team – featuring seven players making their first team debuts – rallied to equalize and frustrate the Colts, who pressed relentlessly, but were hit in return by an effective Lions counter attack.
“I think we created plenty of opportunities to go at them and we did that very well, and to open the season with a point on the road, I’m happy,” said new Boston City head coach Michael Bustamante after his first match in charge.
“You can definitely see a change of attitude and dynamic in how we play and that’s encouraging to see. I’m pleased that the boys are trying what I ask them to do and from that came some chances and obviously some goals.”
Jhonata Batista, who has been scoring freely for the club’s development team in the Bay State Soccer League scored twice and produced a clever flick to assist on the goal of teammate Rigoberto Jimenez.
“It was a brilliant performance from him, which kept us in the game,” said Bustamante. “He’s a smart player and he finds pockets around the area where we want him to receive the ball. We can utilize his strengths because he showed today that when you do find him, he can be dangerous.”
Things looked ominous for Boston City right out of the gate as Luke Alvaro capitalized on a sluggish visiting defense to test keeper Jake Wagmeister after only 19 seconds. Two minutes later, the Hartford striker poached the lead as another burst forward saw Alvaro fed inside the penalty area by Mark Grant to score through the legs of Wagmeister.
The hosts pressed to further their advantage but were caught out and their lead was cancelled out after five minutes. Left back Jonathan Argueta, who had a spell with the Lions in 2017, played a long ball up the middle from deep in his own half to spring Batista, who took the ball in his stride, held off a defender and tucked a clinical finish inside the left-hand post to equalize.
Hartford pressure and Boston counter were the story of a non-stop first half, which swung in favor of the hosts after 12 minutes when Miguel Carneiro twisted and turned Ralph Angrand before firing home past the grasp of Wagmeister for a 2-1 lead.
Grant should have made it 3-1 ten minutes later but scuffed his shot in front of goal and in reply, Batista tested the goal from all of 30 yards with a bullet of a low free kick. On the half hour mark, the livewire forward flashed another dead ball chance across goal from an acute angle.
Four minutes before halftime, with the Lions looking likely to trail at the interval, they again drew level. Batista cleverly flicked on another probing ball from the back from Tommaso D’Agostino, freeing Rigoberto Jimenez to race clear and drill home an impressive finish.
A halftime change saw Keith Dixon join he back four in place of Argueta and he was on hand after 59 minutes to crucially clear a chance as Hartford substitute Shaquille Saunchez ran riot on both flanks.
Samuel Deossa fired inches wide on the hour mark after a neat exchange with Jimenez as Boston City continued to soak up pressure and then create an outlet to threaten themselves.
It was cruel on the Lions after 70 minutes when Carneiro played in a free kick from the right and Tyler Carlos somehow managed to direct a header while falling away from goal and beat Wagmesiter for a 3-2 lead.
Ten minutes later, Boston City again drew level. Santi Cardona had only been on the pitch for a minute and had an immediate impact as he fed Jimenez out on the left and his cross was met by a looping header from Batista who climbed about his marker to equalize and earn the Lions a share of the points.
“The game was tough because they had the ball a lot and I had to keep moving because the defenders were on me the whole time,” said Batista. “We started moving the ball more in the second half and a good example of that was the beautiful ball from Rigoberto for the third goal.”
Boston City FC: GK Jake Wagmeister, D: Willian Bonora, Jeremy Pachter, Ralph Angrand, Jonathan Argueta (Keith Dixon 45′), M: Samuel Deossa, Tommaso D’Agostino, Charlton Muhlauri, Mateus Araujo (Santi Cardona 83′), Rigoberto Jimenez, Jhonata Batista.
Goals: Batista (5′, 80′), Jimenez (41′)