On a gorgeous evening in Miami, Atlanta United continued their quest for silverware with their next round of U.S. Open Cup action. It’s an exciting time because we get to see what’s essentially, the B-squad, on the pitch in front of the 9,004 fans in attendance. Manager Tata Martino went with a 4-2-3-1 formation using only four starters from his first team squad. Tonight’s roster featured the likes of fan favorite Andrew Carleton and Anton Walkes (at Centreback), and youngsters Miles Robinson, Chris Goslin, and recent signee Lagos Kunga on the bench.
In the 34′ The Five Stripes hit pay dirt off a set piece. Kevin Kratz delivered a beautiful ball in the box that found the head of Brandon Vazquez for Atlanta’s first goal. But the celebration was short-lived after Miami stole the ball in the final third and Stefano Pinho rifled a low ball past Alec Kann.
In the 51′, Miami FC had a set piece in Atlanta’s final third. A long cross came into the box and Rhett Bernstein hammered it home for their second goal. This was the second goal of the match from a set piece. The boys from South Beach didn’t just look good on paper, they were playing like a cohesive unit and to make things worse, their speed was comparable to United’s.
Atlanta was given a lifeline when Andrew Carleton was fouled inside the 18 (the 18-yard box, the penalty area). Since he went to collect the ball everyone thought he would take the attempt. But it turned out that Julian Gressel would be the man to take the penalty and thankfully tie the match at 2-2. In the 84′ that PK would be his last hurrah as he was subbed off for Harrison Heath.
Chris McCann and Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez both avoided red cards but the team as a whole was unable to avoid disaster. A horrific back pass by Harrison Heath was intercepted by Kwadwo Poku. The Miami FC Midfielder sped into the final third and found himself 1 v 1 with Alec Kann with Gónzalez-Pirez in close pursuit. With Kann in front and Pirez behind, Poku pulled a cheeky move and tapped the ball just outside the reach of Kann and Pirez and the ball painfully rolled into the corner netting. It was so painful not just because of the cheeky move, or the fact it was in the 93′ with no time remaining, but because of how slow the ball was rolling but the Atlanta defense could do nothing about it.
So that’s how Atlanta United was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt Trophy. Probably not the outing that Heath had wanted (that was his second giveaway within minutes) but that shouldn’t take away from Miami FC. They played a superb game and could stand with any team in MLS. We were seconds away from extra time but because of unforced errors, the match was literally given away.
Atlanta United may very well have the strongest roster in MLS but they’ve also been the most inconsistent, which seems to be a serious trend in Atlanta sports.
The Five Stripes will try and put the pieces back together when they head to Ohio on Saturday for their reverse fixture with the Columbus Crew.
Photos courtesy of Miami FC