Cup competitions offer up a chance for teams to make an impact – regardless of whether or not they’re title challengers in the league or they are underdogs that want to try and ride some momentum in order to gain a piece of silverware.
As reported by SoccerAmerica and Goal, one team that was able to add to their collection last night was Atlanta United as the reigning MLS Cup champions defeated Minnesota United in the final of the US Open Cup.
Forcing the issue
Heading into this game it certainly felt like the expectation was for Atlanta to take home the crown, but the statistics alone will tell you that Minnesota didn’t make it all too easy for them. They had 19 shots in comparison to ATL’s nine, although six of Atlanta’s were on target whereas only four were on target for the goal-hungry Minnesota.
The possession was pretty tight but the fouls were certainly flying in left and right, but in terms of the goals, it was a Chase Gasper own goal that gave Atlanta the advantage just 10 minutes into the game. Gonzalo Nicolas Martinez was able to make it two shortly afterwards, ensuring that Minny had their backs against the wall.
Robin Lod pulled one back early on in the second half, and then with around 15 minutes remaining, a red card for Leandro Gonzalez Pirez swung the door wide open for Minnesota to pounce.
Alas, they were unable to make it happen, and Atlanta held firm in order to capture the US Open Cup title.
It’s a big moment for the franchise, especially when you consider their current situation in the MLS season. After a slow start they have been able to creep up to the top of the Eastern Conference, sitting above Philadelphia with a game in hand. They know that they probably won’t be able to push on and win the Supporters Shield, with the Western Conference’s LAFC having full control of that.
Champs elect again?
Speaking of the West, Minnesota United are still hanging on in there in fifth spot, and it certainly seems like they’re the kind of team that could cause a few issues for the bigger teams once the playoffs roll around.
At the start of this season, a few games in, Atlanta were giving off the look of a team that were down and out and were suffering a hangover from their MLS Cup success the year prior. As time has gone on, however, they’ve been able to jump over every hurdle as they made their way back towards where they want to be.
The road back, in an official sense, is still going to be a pretty long one, but it really doesn’t feel like they care all too much about that. The pressure isn’t really on their shoulders this season as much as it was the last, and the fact that they aren’t working with that strain could be the biggest asset of all for them.
Watch out, MLS, the champs are back.