Atlanta United overcame a team with three players suspended and a giant walkout hoax that some people actually thought was real. That would be about the most disappointing thing out of Atlanta United on Saturday afternoon. The team had every advantage against the LA Galaxy, after all it wasn’t GBS who had cooked his players asado, and they forced three defensive errors. LA had no answer for the Five Stripes as Atlanta won in dominant fashion. The three goals forced add to a tally of 13 put in the net over the last four games, a nice turn around in the attack after the team took until May 15th to reach that mark to begin the year.
Today Atlanta has a shot at reaching a final in a tournament with weird roster rules against its fake rival, a team it’s never lost to, and has won more games than in two and a half years than in its entire existence. It should be a good time at least and the next eight days represent just about the most consequential games of the year so far. There’s a chance to take a step to win the Open Cup, win the East by beating NYCFC, and take home whatever the Campeones Copa is. But first, Atlanta has to do what it’s always done against Orlando - not lose.
What if jorts became sentient and started a soccer team?
It’s been a while since we checked in on Orlando City Penitentiary and that’s really too bad because they’ve been one of the best teams in MLS over the last 13 games since losing to Atlanta United. In fact, they’ve done so well that they sit in 9th place in the East, how could that be? They’re in the semi-final of the US Open Cup, the most prestigious domestic competition that has ever been won by the best expansion team of all time, the Chicago Fire (a fact that is constantly paraded about by MLS analysts as a huge achievement for an MLS team and not a giant embarrassment for soccer in the US more broadly, good times!).
Orlando got here by dispatching something called Memphis 901, which is actually a real soccer team and not one of those amateur sides that is sponsored by a cleaning products company or something that make it through because a third string goalkeeper for the Fort Wayne Argyle had a howler(I imagine), by a score of 3-1. They continued powering through the tournament by playing the New England Revolution to a scoreless draw through 90 minutes before finally scoring a goal in the 96th and scoring a second in the 111th. A late goal by Justin Rennicks wasn’t enough to push Bruce Arena’s side to a miracle comeback so the Revolution were seen out of the tournament.
Then there was the game against NYCFC that pushed them to the final. The match was a typical Open Cup game in which the team from New York seemed to look at the MLS schedule and exclaim MEH! as they put out a second choice lineup. Orlando took a 1-0 lead around the hour mark and then promptly threw away a victory in regulation in the 6th minute of injury time. After 30 minutes the game went to penalties with NYCFC deciding to take the shootout on the side of the stadium opposite the supporters section. Since the stadium had been empty for the match it just meant that OCSC fans could do what they do best to support their team - run like they were being chased by mall security after making off with a jorts load of loot to the other side of the stadium and scream things about how Disneyland is better than Times Square at the backup NYCFC keeper to push them to the next round.
If there’s one thing Orlando fans are great at, it’s running and yelling. Just look how happy Dom Dwyer was to come back to Florida and have a chance to show why he has no place on the USMNT in his ole stomping grounds.
7/25/17— NA Terraces (@NATerraces) July 26, 2017
Dom Dwyer being greeted at the airport by Orlando City (MLS) supporters after being traded from Sporting Kansas City to Orlando pic.twitter.com/AK2wXk4dxj
Anyway, Orlando has a chance to get their first win in team history against Atlanta United along with their second trophy of 2019. No doubt, they’ll be itching to show that they have what it takes to do the impossible even if they’re destined to finish 9th in MLS for the rest of history.
Absolute scenes at The Wall in Orlando for a preseason tournament trophy created by Orlando City— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) February 21, 2019
(Why do they make it so easy?) https://t.co/Pp4l4zX2az
A Semi-tough game for Atlanta United
This game has... everything written all over it. A win is a chance a trophy, it should happen, even on the road Atlanta United is better than Orlando City will ever be. Even if the team has the worst possible outcome for the season and finishes 2nd in the East, Atlanta will always be better than Orlando. That would make a loss as devastating as it is inevitable, especially with a trophy on the line and with the extremely soft road that the Five Stripes would have to travel to the Final. Then there’s the awesome thing where the fans and players can’t stop complaining about Frank de Boer, but he might win a trophy in a competition that has different rules than MLS while making everyone mad about how the team is doing in MLS. It’s nothing short of the kind of perfect “plane is crashing into the mountain, but hey cannibalism can’t be that bad” thing that makes sports great.
As far as how that might all go down, well FdB has a big decision to make - which internationals does he start and which are not going to make the XI and how much fun is it going to be when Brandon Vazquez scores a hat trick? The Atlanta attack has been much better over the last few games and the defense seems like it’s catching up... at home at least. On the road, things are much different, but if the team is more comfortable playing with a three centerback formation, that might turn things around away also.
If the team is going to make it through, it will need to do it without the best player on the team. Josef Martinez is set to miss the match with an injury and it will be semi-tough to win without the guy who has scored just under half the goals this season or who scares the life out of defenses and opens up space for his teammates to get the other half. Undoubtedly, the attack has been better because Josef is banging goals and it looked better than it did all year against the Galaxy because Barco, Josef, and Pity were playing at the same time. So if Josef is out, that will be a problem, but it should be fine. Atlanta’s B team is at least as good as any team managed by James O’Connor - even on the road. At the very least perhaps Justin Meram starts, the fans in Orlando embarrass themselves and the league upon seeing a player that they drove out of town because he was clearly why they were struggling so much (a change that saw Orlando rocket up to 9th in the table so clearly their intelligent fans saw what the problem was), and he gets sweet revenge on the supporters. It’ll work... maybe? I guess?
Will you accept this rose?
As one of the two people who write for DSS that watch the Bachelor on purpose and not just because they’re visiting urgent care after destroying their ankle, I can say that this tournament is the Bachelor in Paradise of soccer games. The favorites never get as far as they should, anyone with any sense decided not to come, and deciding who the best team in the US is by making sure that teams can’t use all of their best players makes about as much sense as dating 30 people at once while 30 other people also try to date those people so you can find the person you want to marry.
And all that ends up with the winner being someone you totally forgot about. No really, who won the US Open Cup last year? I’ll wait.
It was the Rochester Rhinos.