Atlanta United, which entered MLS in 2017, is already a
battle-tested team, having been through the MLS playoffs twice and Concacaf Champions League once and captured one MLS Cup title and one Campeones Cup title.
Minnesota United will be playing its biggest game since it joined MLS in 2017 from the NASL when its faces Atlanta United in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Nobody in America probably gives us a chance," said Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath. "I wouldn’t think anybody. But the only people that think they have a chance are the only people that matter, and it’s the players and the staff.”
Atlanta United vs. Minnesota United (MLS):
2017: Minnesota United-Atlanta United 1-6
-- Atlanta United-Minnesota United 2-3
2018: Minnesota United-Atlanta United 0-1
2019: Atlanta United-Minnesota United 3-0
The Loons will be the underdog on Tuesday but they have not shown up in Atlanta without any arguments in their favor ...
MBS success. Minnesota United has won at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which few visiting teams have done. Its 3-2 win in 2017 is just one of six Atlanta United has suffered in 48 MLS home matches.
Hot goalscorer. The Loons' Open Cup run has paralleled their solid MLS season in which they find themselves well placed to make the playoffs for the first time. Darwin Quintero leads all scorers with a modern-era record six goals in MNUFC's four Open Cup wins.
Open Cup experience. Minnesota United players have plenty of Open Cup experience. Osvaldo Alonso has won the Open Cup four times, all with Seattle, and is in line to make a record seventh appearance in the final. Ike Opara, another offseason acquisition, won the Open Cup in 2015 and 2017 with Sporting KC.
Atlanta United enters the final in its best form of the season. All it's done in the last two weeks is beat Club America, 3-2, to win the Campeones Cup and beat Portland and Orlando City with shutout victories on the road in MLS play.
It set the Open Cup record when it drew largest-ever crowd in Open Cup game history (41,012) for its round-of-16 match against the Chicago Fire last year, and that record could fall on Tuesday.
“We know it’s going to be difficult,” said Heath. “It’s Atlanta, maybe one of the most difficult places to go and try to win a game and that’s what we have to do. It’s not a league game where you think, well, we’ll take a point, you’ve got to go and try to win it.”
Both Atlanta United and Minnesota United face big MLS matches this week. First place is on the line in the Eastern Conference for the Five Stripes when they travel to Philadelphia on Saturday. The Loons risk falling to seventh place in the Western Conference if they don't win at runaway Supporters' Shield leader LAFC.
But for one evening, Minnesota United will the MLS playoff race aside and set its sights on its first cup trophy.
“I've said to the players before, I've played in cup finals and won them,” said Heath, winner of the 1984 English FA Cup and 1985 Cup Winners' Cup as a player with Everton. “I've played in cup finals and lost them. People go, ‘We're going to enjoy it.’ Trust me, you only enjoy it when you win and that's what we're going to have to try and do.”