Thus far, Atlanta United Football Club’s 2019 campaign has been more symbolic of Homer’s Odyssey. Through the twists and turns and the highs and lows, the Five Stripes Tuesday night found themselves lifting another trophy in two weeks, this time the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup when they defeated Minnesota United 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

As before with the Campeones Cup, the U.S. Open Cup provided a playoff atmosphere that Atlanta has grown accustomed to. By U.S. Open Cup standards, the 35,709 broke the competition’s attendance record. However, it was far off the usual 50,000 average Atlanta normally draws for Major League Soccer matches.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “We talked before the game. We talked about being a winning club, winning trophies, being a big club, and that’s what it’s about. We held on in the second half.”

In the 10th minute, Atlanta took the lead through an own goal. Midfielders Julian Gressel and Pity Martínez combined on the right wing and found defender Leandro González Pirez as he bombed forward. The ball ricocheted off of Minnesota defender Chase Gasper and fell over the head of Minnesota goal keeper Vito Mannone.

Six minutes later Pity Martínez fired a rocket into the roof of the net. It was Pity’s second goal of the U.S. Open Cup and the fans believed it would be a “champagne football” party inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

However, in the second half, Minnesota scored in the 47th minute with a goal by Robin Lod. Six minutes later, Josef Martínez’s goal was denied by the assistant referee because the pass from midfielder Justin Meram was made from an offside position.

In the 74th minute, González Pirez was shown his second yellow and subsequently sent off, forcing Atlanta to defend the one goal lead with only ten men. A breathtaking final defensive stand, coupled with the fans (the 17s) exhorting the team, the Five Stripes were able to see out the victory.

“It is always difficult. We played the same system – 5-3-1 – at that moment,” explained Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer. “It was not a 3-4-3, 3-5-2, or something like that, but really five defenders, three midfielders, and one up top. It was surviving, and hopefully, you might get a break – or something like that – because they have to take risks – of course – but it was nerve-racking for everyone – including the fans.”

Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst lifts the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy after beating Minnesota United 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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