A memorable night in Kennesaw for the Five Stripes, who rolled to a comfortable 3-0 win over the Charleston Battery to advance to the fifth round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The cup competition is a perfect chance for Atlanta United’s depth players to make their case for their head coach, and Tata Martino gave them the opportunity with the lineup. Leandro González Pirez captained the side, with Franco Escobar, Julian Gressel and Ezequiel Barco also retaining their spots in the starting lineup. But there were plenty of changes, with Alec Kann, Sal Zizzo, Miles Robinson, Kevin Kratz, Brandon Vazquez, Andrew Carleton and Romario Williams all coming into the starting squad. The full XI: Alec Kann (GK), Sal Zizzo (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Julian Gressel (CM), Kevin Kratz (CM), Ezequiel Barco (LW), Andrew Carleton (CAM), Brandon Vazquez (RW), Romario Williams (ST).
The blend of youth and experience proved to be a potent combination, with the red, black and gold taking control of the game with a dominant spell of possession straight from the first whistle. Andrew Carleton turned that dominance into a goal just 14 minutes in, finding a pocket of space at the top of the box and rocketing a shot from distance that was too hot for the Charleston goalkeeper to handle. It’s the first competitive goal for the first team for the club’s first Homegrown signing, a moment he will never forget.
Atlanta United remained well on top, but couldn’t extend the lead until the second half. Just moments after the second-half kickoff, Romario Williams danced past his defender with a quick dribble in the box, and the Battery defender was fooled into bringing him down for a penalty. Ezequiel Barco stepped up and opted for power, hitting a blazing shot that the goalkeeper couldn’t keep out.
Romario Williams was a menace all night for the opposing defense, and he got the goal his Man of the Match performance deserved. Barco played a ball to the Jamaican striker at the top of the box, and he took a touch past his defender to gain a yard of space and fizzed a low roller past the outreached hand of the Battery goalkeeper and inside the far post.
Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu and Homegrown Chris Goslin each came out to help bring fresh legs to the midfield and see out the match in front of a full house of 9,742 fans, the most ever for a sporting event in Fifth Third Bank Stadium. The result means the Five Stripes move on to the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup, with their next rival to be determined in a draw on Thursday. The team will now regroup for two road matches against Eastern Conference rivals –– New York City FC and the Columbus Crew –– before returning home to face the Portland Timbers on June 24th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve secured yours here.