Knockout, tournament soccer is always a cagey affair, especially with a USL side fighting for their lives in a cinderella run. But a professional performance from Atlanta United in front of a rowdy crowd in Kennesaw sealed a spot in the semifinals for Atlanta United Wednesday.
The main headline in the starting lineup was a first start for Emerson Hyndman, who came into the center of the park in place of Julian Gressel, who got the night off to rest his legs. Leandro González Pirez came back into the starting lineup after serving his one-match red card suspension and Brek Shea replaced Mikey Ambrose in an otherwise unchanged lineup from the weekend. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Brek Shea (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Emerson Hyndman (CAM), Justin Meram (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Pity Martínez (RW).
Atlanta United pounced onto the front foot from the start, nearly opening the scoring twice in the opening ten minutes. But Saint Louis FC defended with their lives in a deep, defensive block. Despite the Five Stripes’ relentless pressure, the front line couldn’t capitalize on their dominance and the teams went into the half knotted at 0-0.
It didn’t take long for Atlanta United to find the opener in the second half, and it came from a huge intervention from the debutant, Emerson Hyndman. A nice combination play between Justin Meram and Josef Martinez was broken up, by Hyndman didn’t give up on the play, pouncing on the defender to take possession and laying off to Pity Martinez to arc home an unstoppable finish.
Atlanta United held the opponents at arm’s length for the rest of the match, and doubled their lead right before the final. With Saint Louis stretched looking for the equalizer deep into stoppage time, Dion Pereira broke free down the right wing and danced past his opponent in the box only to be brought down for a penalty. Josef Martinez was ruthless from the spot, putting the icing on the cake for a 2-0 victory in front of the supporters’ stand.
The win puts Atlanta United into the final four of the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in club history. They will face Orlando City in the semifinals, with the venue set to be determined in a blind draw Thursday at 2 p.m. EST. Stay tuned to ATLUTD.com for all the latest updates on the next match.