Atlanta United's 2019 season, which began with an early exit
from the Concacaf Champions League and a slow start in MLS under new head coach Frank de Boer, has certainly turned around in August.
On Tuesday, Atlanta United won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, defeating Minnesota United, 2-1, in the final to won its second trophy of the month and extend its record since the MLS All-Star Game to seven wins in seven games.
The Five Stripes jumped to a 2-0 lead over their 2017 MLS expansion partner, Minnesota United, and held on to win after Minnesota cut into the deficit two minutes into the second half and played the last 16 minutes with an extra man following Atlanta defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez's red card.
Gonzalez Pirez was involved in the first goal, attempting a cross that took a deflection off rookie defender Chase Gasper and spun viciously, falling into the goal over the head of Minnesota goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
Six minutes later, Atlanta made it 2-0 and the rout looked to be on after left winger Justin Meram cut toward the end and played a ball back into the middle, where Pity Martinez fired a left-footed shot into the roof of the net.
From then on out, though, Minnesota was the dominant team, getting a goal two minutes into the second half from new Finn Robin Lod. After Gonzalez Pirez's dismissal, the Loons fired off nine shots but couldn't find the equalizer.
The best chance came late in stoppage time when Ike Opara played a header back into the middle, where fellow defender Michael Boxall was open but couldn't put his volleyed attempt on target.
Atlanta United is now 2-for-3 in trophies in 2019. It lost to eventual champion Monterrey, 3-1, on aggregate in the quarterfinals of 2019 Concacaf Champions League but it beat another Mexican powerhouse, Club America, 3-2, to win the second edition of the Campeones Cup.
“The biggest clubs in the world win trophies,” Atlanta United winger Julian Gressel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a super cup, a Campeones Cup, U.S. Open Cup, whatever it is. That’s what we’ve been doing the last year. We’ve obviously won three. We look to continue that because it’s what big clubs do. We want to continue that and definitely see ourselves as a big club.”
By winning the Open Cup, Atlanta United has qualified for the 2020 Concacaf Champions League, where it will get a chance to atone for its 2019 quarterfinal exit. The Five Stripes won the second leg at home, 1-0, handing Monterrey its only defeat in eight games, but they had little chance to make up for the 3-0 defeat in Mexico, where they conceded the final two goals in the last 10 minutes.
After Tuesday's final, Gressel said that first leg in Monterrey is the one game he wants back.
“It’s nice to be in that competition again," he added.
Aug. 27 in Atlanta, Ga.
Atlanta United 2 Minnesota United 1. Goals: Own goal 10, P.Martinez 16; Lod 47.
Atlanta United -- Guzan; Gonzalez Pirez, Robinson, Pogba; Gressel (Larentowicz, 85), Nagbe, Remedi, Meram; P.Martinez (Escobar, 76), Barco (Hyndman, 70), J.Martinez
Minnesota United -- Mannone; Metanire, Opara, Boxall, Gasper; Gregus, Alonso (Quintero, 75), Dotson; Molino (Danladi, 85), Toye, Lod (Finlay, 70).
Red Card: Atlanta United -- Gonzalez Pirez 74.
Referee: Allen Chapman (USA)