Atlanta United is back in action in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night when they travel to brand new GEODIS Park to take on Nashville SC in the Round of 32. The 5-Stripes defeated Chattanooga 6-0 in the previous round, while Nashville will play its first-ever Open Cup match as an MLS team after receiving a bye in the previous round. Both teams are coming off home victories in league play last weekend and will look to survive and advance in the Open Cup. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Keep feeding Mr. Cisneros
Atlanta United produced a season-best four goals in the 4-1 drubbing of Chicago Fire FC on Saturday night. Three of those goals came off the boot of Ronaldo Cisneros, who earned MLS Player & Team of the Week honors for his efforts. The Mexican born striker recorded his second-ever hat trick to help the 5-Stripes get back in the win column. Cisneros benefitted from great team combination play, something head coach Gonzalo Pineda has been preaching all season, to score his goals. Thiago Almada, Luiz Araújo and Marcelino Moreno all picked up assists against Chicago. The continuity and quality of the front four is beginning to show and that will be something Atlanta United can lean on in Wednesday’s match.
Contain Mukhtar and manage the emotion of new stadium
Nashville SC has picked up four points in the two matches it has played at GEODIS Park, the country’s largest soccer specific venue. They are coming off a 2-0 win against Real Salt Lake on the weekend. One of the key players to watch in Nashville’s attack is Hany Mukhtar. The attacking midfielder leads the team in chances created (17) and shots on goal (18). Many of his created chances fall to fellow attacker C.J. Sapong who has been the first-choice No. 9 for Gary Smith all season. He leads the side with three goals.
One of Nashville’s biggest strengths over the course of the past couple of years has been set pieces. They scored against RSL off a set piece, when Dave Romney pounced on a loose ball in the box. In Walker Zimmerman, Sapong and Romney, Nashville possesses several players with a big physical presence. Atlanta’s defense will be tested once again on set pieces, an area the team is emphasizing again this week in training.
Big Players show up for Big Games
Knockout matches, whether that’s U.S. Open Cup or MLS Cup Playoffs, are special occasions. When Atlanta travels to Nashville on Wednesday night, a winner has to emerge. If the match is tied after 90 minutes on Wednesday night, there will be a 30-minute extra period, and potentially penalty kicks if necessary. These are the type of matches when big players need to step up for big moments.
Atlanta has several of these big game players, especially in the attack. If Almada, Moreno and Araújo can continue to gel and click, the 5-Stripes will be in a great position to continue their title defense in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Defensively, Alex de John played outstanding after coming on for an injured Miles Robinson on the weekend. His partnership with Alan Franco will be another key for Atlanta.
Fans can tune in nationally on ESPN+ on Wednesday night with kickoff set for 8pm ET. To tune in on radio fans can listen to Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (English) or La Mejor Atlanta AM 1600 (Spanish).