Atlanta United continued its recent dominance in American soccer competitions on Tuesday night, beating Minnesota United 2-1 in the US Open Cup final in Atlanta.
The victory gave Atlanta its third trophy in the past year, as the club also won the 2018 MLS Cup, then defeated Mexico’s Club America to win the Campeones Cup earlier this year.
Atlanta United Building Trophy Collection
For Atlanta United, which only came into existence in 2017, the trophies validate the feeling that the club has become a major soccer powerhouse.
“The biggest clubs in the world win trophies,” winger Julian Gressel told reporters. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a Super Cup, if it’s a Campeones Cup, if it’s an Open Cup, whatever it is. That’s what we’ve been doing the last year – obviously we’ve won three. We’d like to continue that because that’s what big clubs do.”
Early on, it looked as though Atlanta might run away with the final. The hosts got out to a fast start after a Chase Gasper own goal in the 10th minute, then extended its lead to 2-0 on a Gonzalo Martinez strike six minutes later.
But Minnesota dug in and kept Atlanta off the scoreboard for the rest of the first half. Robin Lod then made a match of it by scoring just two minutes after the break to get Minnesota back within a goal.
The pressure only intensified after center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was sent off in the 74th minute after earning a second yellow card. At that point, the hosts simply tried to hold on for dear life over the final 20 minutes or so of action.
“I was on the bench the last 10 minutes and I tried to get everybody up because I feel like we needed it on the field,” Gressel said.
A Chance for Champions League Redemption
The victory also guarantees Atlanta United a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League. In the 2019 edition, Atlanta made it past Costa Rican side Herediano, but lost 3-1 on aggregate to Monterrey in the second round. This time around, the team thinks they can make a much deeper run.
“Listen, this year going into the Champions League, on the back of MLS Cup, short rest…new manager changes, we certainly weren’t at our best at the beginning of the year,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re certainly better than what we showed this year in Champions League, and so I think next year could be potentially a different showing if we make sure we get off to a good start.”
Atlanta United is in position to make a strong defense of its MLS Cup title as well. The club is currently tied with the Philadelphia Union at the top of the Eastern Conference with 48 points, though Atlanta has a game in hand.
However, LAFC remains the overwhelming favorite. The Los Angeles club, led by star forward Carlos Vela, leads the league with 62 points on the back of a 19-5-3 record. That has made them the clear favorite according to oddsmakers, with FanDuel Sportsbook listing LAFC at +130 to win the 2019 MLS Cup ahead of Atlanta (+850) and NYCFC (+850).