Brandon Vazquez and Atlanta United made sure a match delayed by weather for two hours and forty minutes was worth the wait.
United got all they could handle from their USL affiliate, the Charleston Battery, but a goal by Vazquez in the match's 72nd minute lifted the Five Stripes to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw. It was a successful open to the club's first-ever U.S. Open Cup and puts the team into the Round of 16 on June 28, where they’ll visit Miami FC at a time to be determined.
The second-division side had been known to knock down MLS teams in Cup play in the past, and they found themselves ahead early on after the match finally got underway following some active weather in the area. A O’Brian Woodbine throw into the box found the head of Forrest Lasso, who knocked it past Alec Kann to give the Battery the early 1-0 advantage. Atlanta looked disorganized with their passing and defending at least to start, but as the match progressed, they began to become more of a threat and develop a little more creativity with the ball. It finally paid off in the 30th minute on a goal by Kevin Kratz - his first with the club - to make it 1-1. But Charleston got it back just seconds later as a Dante Marini crack deflected off Miles Robinson’s foot, took a tough angle away from Kann and curved into the net to put the Battery ahead 2-1. And if not for a missed penalty by Woodbine, it would have been 3-1. All in all, the first 45 minutes were poor by Atlanta aside from a few bright spots.
The second half started off a bit better - and it eventually paid off for Atlanta. In the 48th minute, it was a perfect cross by Brandon Vazquez to Josef Martinez, whose header beat Odisnel Cooper to level it again.
GUESS WHO'S BACK. BACK AGAIN. JOSEF'S BACK. TELL A FRIEND. pic.twitter.com/yRjHa0X25r— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) June 15, 2017
In the 72nd, the home side drew ahead on another great cross into the box. This time, it was Mikey Ambrose feeding it to Brandon Vazquez for his second goal with the club and the eventual game winner.
There were a couple of nervy moments toward the end, but Atlanta held firm to get the win and move on to the next round. Despite the win, Tata Martino was visibly displeased with the team’s overall showing after the match.
“The positive was that we found a way to get through it,” he said. “But we made a lot of errors and the team didn’t fulfill the game plan we had going in. As a team we didn’t play very well, but we were able to win due to our perseverance.”
Kratz was one of the players that certainly performed well. He set up several good chances, possessed the ball well, and, of course, had Atlanta’s first goal. As it turns out, he’s rather used to scoring in Cup matches, which he did in his home country of Germany.
“Every Cup game I played (in Germany) I scored, so maybe I’m a ‘Cup guy’”, he said afterwards. “I’m happy that I scored, but I’m more happy that we’re going to the next round.
Atlanta’s next league match is Saturday at 7pm against Columbus Crew SC - who fell to the USL's FC Cincinnati 2-1 in their fourth round Cup match - in a battle of teams on either side of the red line as we approach the midpoint of the MLS season. Charleston visit FC Cincinnati in their own Saturday evening league tilt as the Battery look to increase their four-point lead at the top of the USL East table.