U.S. Open Cup

Atlanta United defeats Charleston Battery on penalty kicks to advance to U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals


Atlanta United triumphed in penalty kicks over USL Championship side Charleston Battery Tuesday night in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16. In a tight contest that was scoreless after regulation and extra time, the winner of the match was decided by a penalty shootout.

Goalkeeper Josh Cohen punched Charleston's last kick over the crossbar to send Atlanta United through to the quarterfinals of the competition.

"I’m super happy," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said in his postmatch press conference. "You can imagine it wasn’t an easy game. It was a game that we had to fight through, try our best to attack and we had a couple good chances. But at the end, the last 30 minutes, overtime, it was all about who wanted it more."

Atlanta United had a challenge ahead of them Tuesday. Charleston Battery, led by head coach Ben Pirmann, entered the matchup in excellent form, undefeated in league play and in first place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference. And the match played out that way, as Atlanta United started several reserves including two called up on a short-term agreement, with the sides trading chances for 120 minutes and neither finding the back of the net.

"I’m very proud of them, very proud of the team," Pineda said. "Getting some good vibes, a bit of a positive mindset. I think this will bring us a bit more energy.”

Atlanta United cooked up one of their best opportunities in the 17th minute. Ashton Gordon evaded a defender then passed the ball to Luke Brennan on the wing. Brennan threaded the needle in a tight window to striker Jamal Thiaré making a diagonal run into the box. Thiaré received the pass, but was soon met by Charleston goalkeeper Daniel Kuzemka, who came flying in to block Thiaré’s shot.

As the first half progressed, both teams created some quality in their attack. For Atlanta, Thiaré nearly connected on a header on a play that developed quickly, similar to his goal in MLS play at New York City FC, but his header sailed over the frame. In the 43rd minute, Charleston combined and forward Nick Markanich took a shot from inside the box that went into the arms of Cohen.

In the 63rd minute, Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda made his first changes, sending on Daniel Ríos and Bartosz Slisz for Thiaré and Gordon.

On the next play, Charleston Battery nearly opened the scoring when midfielder Aaron Molloy took a long touch then ripped a shot from about 25 yards out with his right foot. The ball bounced just wide of goal. Minutes later, Nick Firmino tried a shot from similar distance for Atlanta United. The shot was well struck and on frame, requiring a save from Kuzemka that went out-of-bounds for an Atlanta corner kick.

Regulation ended scoreless, which meant extra time at Patriots Point Soccer Stadium. Some veterans were on the pitch for Atlanta heading into the two 15-minute periods. Second half substitutions included first team starters Brooks Lennon and Stian Gregersen.

Right at the start of extra time, Charleston Battery drew a foul and earned a direct free kick from about 25 yards out. The kick was deflected toward goal and clanged off the post in a scary moment for the 5-Stripes.

In the first 15 minutes of extra time, Atlanta United used their last substitute available for a field player, sending Alan Carleton on for Matt Edwards. The appearance marked Carleton's club debut with the first team.

“120 minutes, there’s some rotation there but we’re working really hard," Cohen said postmatch. "I think the guys did really well to stay connected and communicate with each other. When you have change in the backline and different pieces the most important part is just to maintain communication. You can swap in pieces and as long as the communication is there, you’re going to be solid and get that confidence that guy next to you on your left and right.”

Atlanta United put together a good chance in extra time and nearly found the game-winner. Gregersen played the ball vertically to Lennon. The fullback did what he does so well and sent a quality cross into he box. The ball arrived to Firmino at the far post. The midfielder used the outside of his foot for the attempt, but at a tough angle, and his shot missed.

Still level 0-0 after 120 minutes, the match went to a shootout. Atlanta United missed the first, then converted the next four kicks. Charleston Battery made their first four then Cohen stopped the fifth to force another round. Gregersen made the sixth for Atlanta, and Cohen stopped Charleston's sixth attempt to secure the first penalty shootout win in club history.

“A lot of it is just trying to stay calm," Cohen said. "I had those two where I got a fingertip to it or it came off my thumb and still ended up in the goal, which is frustrating, but you just have to forget about that. And then treat that one as an isolated incident and trust yourself, push, and it paid off tonight.”

Similar to the Round of 32 in the win over Charlotte Indepencence, Pineda's starting lineup featured a mix of first and second team players. Cohen made his second career start in goal for Atlanta United and earned his second clean sheet. Matt Edwards and Ashton Gordon, who were two of four players called up on short-term agreements, earned the start.

“We played with a total of six Homegrowns, for me that’s huge," Pineda said. "If you count Nick Firmino who has developed a little bit more with the second team initially, it’s almost seven. So that for me is a huge, huge statement of the club, how good the Academy is and how much talent and heart the kids are putting in. I think it was impressive."

With the result, Atlanta United moves on to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup for the first time since 2019. Details for the next match and opponent will be determined in a draw held Wednesday night at 10 p.m., which will be streamed on the official YouTube channel of U.S. Soccer. Quarterfinal matches are scheduled to take place July 9-10.

Match Stats
Charleston Battery 
Atlanta United
Shots on target
Corner kicks
Fouls committed
Passing accuracy

Penalty Shootout Result

  • ATL - Brooks Lennon (Saved), Daniel Ríos (Goal), Bartosz Slisz (Goal), Ronald Hernández (Goal), Nick Firmino (Goal), Stian Gregersen (Goal)
  • CHS - Arturo Rodriguez (Goal), Jackson Conway (Goal), MD Myers (Goal), Graham Smith (Goal), Diego Gutierrez (Saved), Aaron Molloy (Saved)

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