In yet another torrential downpour, facing a plucky Columbus Crew side who kept fighting back, Atlanta United did what they had to do Tuesday, securing a 3-2 road win to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer named a strong lineup with a place in the quarterfinals on the line. Justin Meram and Brandon Vazquez earned starting spots after their impressive substitute appearances last week, and Ezequiel Barco made his first start for the club in more than a month after returning from the U-20 FIFA World Cup. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Michael Parkhurst (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Justin Meram (LW), Ezequiel Barco (CAM), Pity Martinez (RW), Brandon Vazquez (ST).
Atlanta United had a dream start, and it led to their opener with less than five minutes on the clock. It started with a mistake at the back and a loose touch from the Crew defender, but Brandon Vazquez was ruthless to pounce on the ball, take a touch into open space, and slot it past the goalkeeper. It was Vazquez’s third goal in less than a week after his electric substitute appearances last week.
It was less than ten minutes later that Atlanta United doubled their advantage, and it was a moment defender Miles Robinson will remember for a long time. Ezequiel Barco swung in a corner and Robinson got loose from his man and connected with a powerful back-post header that bounced off the ground and in for a textbook headed finish. It was Miles Robinson’s first career goal for Atlanta United.
The Crew got one back just before halftime, but as the rain started to pour down on the pitch, Brandon Vazquez continued his red-hot form to get the two-goal lead back. It was a moment of individual brilliance –– Vazquez chased down a long ball in the corner of the pitch, and with a shift of his hips, left his defender in his dust, cutting inside and skidding a low effort past the Crew goalkeeper to make it 3-1.
The Crew didn’t go out without a fight, with Waylon Francis’ low shot through the rain and mud skidding past Guzan to bring the lead back to one. Then it was mother nature’s turn to take the headlines, with a weather delay coming in the 75th minute, pausing play for 50 minutes. When play resumed, Atlanta United was able to hold off the Crew’s pressure, with a spectacular bicycle kick clearance from Leandro González Pirez to solidify the lead the highlight of the final stages.
The win means Atlanta United will now host the next round of the U.S. Open Cup at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University at 7:30 p.m. EST on July 10th, joining the final eight teams still in contention for the silverware. They will host the winner of Wednesday’s match between Saint Louis FC and FC Cincinnati the quarterfinals. Stay tuned for more details on tickets to make sure you’re there to root the club on in their quest for more silverware.