ATLANTA – Last week, Atlanta United drew United Soccer League side the Charleston Battery to start the US Open Cup for the third straight year. Under Tata Martino, the Five Stripes placed too little emphasis on the Open Cup. Martino left the majority of his starters on the sidelines without making them available as substitutes on an as-needed basis. It is understandable that Martino wanted to rest them for the Major League Soccer regular season, but he should have had them available as a backup plan. Though they beat the Battery both years, Atlanta United was ousted in Round 16 of the US Open Cup in matches they could have won if they put some of their starters in from the bench.
At this point, it is unclear what approach Frank De Boer will take in this year’s Open Cup, but if Atlanta United wants to add a different trophy to their case, they need to take a different approach. Against the Battery on June 11, De Boer can start many of his reserves, but he needs to have Josef Martinez, Pity Martinez, and Brad Guzan available off of the bench just in case they need them.
Though the Five Stripes are now only one point out of first place in the Eastern Conference, at this point they are more likely to win the US Open Cup than the MLS Cup. With the Concacaf Champions League once again allowing the Eastern Conference regular season champions into the fold, Atlanta United could get back into the fold that way. The US Open Cup would allow them back to the Champions League as well.
Frank De Boer could utilize a more established system in the Champions League next year if they can make it back. For Atlanta United, the MLS Cup is a been-there and done-that deal. The US Open Cup would offer Atlanta United a new trophy to show-off, and another reason for Atlanta to celebrate.