Atlanta United earned their first-ever cup victory in a 3-2 battle over USL side Charleston Battery in the 4th round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night. Atlanta would come back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to complete the 3-2 comeback thanks to goals from Kevin Kratz, Josef Martinez, and Brandon Vazquez.
Many fresh faces filled Tata Martino’s lineup after their match in Chicago last Saturday including defenders Miles Robinson and Zach Loyd who made their official debuts for the red, black and gold. With Michael Parkhurst out of the lineup, Jeff Larentowicz sported the Captain’s armband. The ATL UTD starting XI vs Charleston Battery: Alec Kann (GK), Mark Bloom (LB), Anton Walkes (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Zach Loyd (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Chris McCann (CM), Kevin Kratz (CAM), Brandon Vazquez (RW), Miguel Almirón (LW), and Josef Martinez (ST).
After a few hour delay due to dangerous weather surrounding Fifth Third Bank Stadium, the match eventually kicked off at 10:10 p.m. Just three minutes in, it was the away side that got on the score sheet first. A long throw into the box was met by Charleston defender Forrest Lasso who rose up and nodded a header into the far post to give the Battery the early 1-0 lead.
Atlanta would conjure up a few chances in attempt to equalize and in the 30th minute, they made it level. A whipped in cross from Zach Loyd would skim a few heads before landing at the feet of Kevin Kratz, who took one touch to settle and the other to blast it in the near post for his first goal in an Atlanta United kit.
However, the match wouldn’t remain level for long as Charleston responded quickly on the other end and less than 60 seconds after conceding, took back the one-goal advantage. Battery midfielder Tah Anunga’s ambitious effort from 30 yards out deflected off defender Miles Robinson which steered the ball in an unpredictable direction and past the hands of Alec Kann.
Entering the half, the score remained 2-1 in Charleston’s favor. Tata Martino made a few changes as they headed into the second 45, including Julian Gressel subbing on for Miles Robinson and Mikey Ambrose subbing on for Zach Loyd.
Atlanta returned the favor of coming out of the gates hot in the second half. In the 48th minute, front man Josef Martinez headed in the equalizer off a Brandon Vazquez cross. Atlanta fans were happy to see the Venezuelan international return to the score sheet after making his return to the pitch last weekend following a quad injury that kept him sidelined since March.
In the 60th minute, coach Martino would make another change, taking out Anton Walkes and bringing on Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, the SuperDraft selection and recent Harvard graduate, to mark his debut.
Atlanta continued to push for the winner, and in the 72nd minute, 18-year-old Vazquez would tap in the go-ahead goal for the Five Stripes. Midfielder Miguel Almirón distributed a pass along the edge of the penalty area for Mikey Ambrose who surged to the end line and sent the ball across the face of the net to a crashing Vazquez who knocked in the game-winner.
Atlanta’s 3-2 victory over the Battery earns them a spot in the next round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in which they will travel down the coast to face Miami FC (matchup determined in the tournament draw which took place at 11:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, June 15).
Atlanta United return to MLS action in just a matter of days as they host the Columbus Crew on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. EST in front of a sixth-straight sellout crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium.