Atlanta United clinched a spot in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals for the first time in team history last night with a 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew. The weather once again played a factor in the Five Stripes’ trip up to Ohio but this time they were on the right side of the result. Here are a few quick thoughts [as I try to stay awake at halftime of the USMNT/Guyana game] on the match.
A Sincere Thank You
Last week’s Atlanta/Charleston match might have been one of the hardest soccer matches I’ve ever had to watch. Thankfully both teams were up for it tonight and it showed. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, especially when the rain started pouring down. But both teams wanted to win and were going for it. The intensity was high with tackles flying in left and right. An early Atlanta goal opened play up and made for an enjoyable experience. I’d like to thank both teams for this.
Please don’t fact check me on this, but I believe this was the first time in Brandon Vazquez’s Atlanta United career that he’s started in a proper striker role with a team that somewhat resembled a first-choice lineup. Tata Martino gave him chances, don’t get me wrong. But Vazquez is just not a winger despite how much Tata wanted him to be.
He started as the team’s target man and looked great. His hold-up play was adequate and his runs were lively, making things difficult for the Columbus back line. His two goals were well taken and he was unlucky to not get a hat trick.
There’s no doubt that Vazquez has talent. He came into Atlanta with some hype thanks to his status as a U.S. youth national team player. His first two years haven’t gone as he’d have liked despite a few bright moments. This feels different though. This team needs another option up top. With these two performances over the past week, he may get some important minutes in the coming months.
Well ... Win It, I Guess
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Atlanta’s road to the cup looks decent. They’ll play the winner of FC Cincinnati and St. Louis FC. If they win there, they’ll take on an Eastern conference MLS team. LAFC is on the other side of the bracket, is what I’m saying. I think we’d all like to see those two meet in the final. There’s a long way before we get there, but it’s okay to start thinking about it now.
When the competition resumes next month, Frank de Boer should have the chance to select some more of his important players. With the team being just two wins away from a place in the final, you can bet that they’ll be able to taste it now.