Atlanta United’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run came to an end Wednesday night after a hard-fought loss to NASL leaders Miami FC.
Atlanta United manager Tata Martino opted to rotate his lineup, making seven changes to his starting lineup last week against Colorado. Tyrone Mears and Julian Gressel returned to the lineup, while Mark Bloom and Chris McCann got big opportunities to impress the boss in starting roles. But the biggest news was up top where 17-year-old Andrew Carleton and 18-year-old Brandon Vazquez were each given full starts in attack. The full lineup: Alec Kann (GK), Mark Bloom (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Antone Walkes (CB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Carlos Carmona (CM), Chris McCann (CM), Andrew Carleton (LW), Kevin Kratz (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Brandon Vazquez (ST).
Atlanta started the game on the front foot, with Kratz and Carleton each testing the goalkeeper with sharp shots on target. And they’d ride that momentum to force a breakthrough in the 36th minute. Kevin Kratz sailed in a beautiful ball from a free kick and Brandon Vazquez rose highest to meet it with his head, sending an unstoppable bouncing header inside the near post. Vazquez has made the most of his opportunities on the field this season, with three goals and two assists on the year so far.
The lead would only last a couple minutes. In the 37th minute, former NYCFC midfielder Kwadwo Poku won possession in midfield and powered forward on a breakaway. He made it all the way to the box before laying it off to Stéfano Pinho, who curled in the equalizer. Kann would stop Pinho’s effort to take the lead, and Carleton would send a sizzling volley just wide on the other end, but the half would end with one goal a piece.
Atlanta found themselves in a hole early in the second half, after a free kick from the left side was headed in from close range by Rhett Bernstein. There were great signs for Atlanta’s future when Lagos Kunga came on for his Atlanta United debut, completing an attacking trio all 18-year-old or younger. And they were rewarded with 15 minutes left on the clock. Andrew Carleton, who was perhaps Atlanta’s best attacking threat all evening, took on Kwadwo Poku on the dribble and was fouled in the box to earn his side a penalty, which Julian Gressel converted to make it 2-2.
But as the clock ticked toward what looked to be extra time, Miami’s Kwadwo Poku got on the end of a long through ball to score a heartbreaking game-winner in the 94th minute. Despite an impressive showing from some of Atlanta’s brightest young talents against a veteran squad, their U.S. Open Cup came to an end with practically the last kick of the game, 3-2.
Atlanta will try to right their recent road wrongs this weekend as they travel to Columbus to face the Crew in a rematch of their game at Bobby Dodd Stadium earlier this year. They’ll be back at home on Tuesday for a July 4th matchup under the stars against San Jose. Make sure you don’t miss the match and a special Independence Day fireworks display by getting your tickets here.