by Matt Weitz
680 The Fan Intern
ATLANTA – Last week in a closed-door stadium affair, Atlanta United survived an upset bid from the Charleston Battery to advance in the US Open Cup. The match was supposed to be played Tuesday night in Charleston, South Carolina on the Battery’s homefield, but the field was deemed unsafe due to rain from earlier in the week.
The Battery’s fans intended to pack the stadium full on Tuesday night before the game was postponed. It was decided that the best option was to move the game to Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Since KSU is in Metro Atlanta, both teams agreed that no fans would be allowed in the stadium, because the game was Charleston’s to host. A small group of media members, and all streaming viewers with ESPN+ were allowed to watch the game, due to the US Open Cup’s importance.
Atlanta United did not have many of their starters available because the Concacaf Gold Cup and Copa America are currently being played. This sent most of Atlanta United’s starters to international duty, forcing them to play mainly bench players. The Charleston Battery on the other hand, had their best players in their lineup because the best minor league players usually don’t play for their national teams. This made the game tighter and more nerve-wracking for fans of both sides.
Things started out poorly for Atlanta United. They conceded a goal 20 minutes in when a turnover led to the Battery’s Ian Svantesson sending the ball past backup United keeper, Alec Kann, and into the right side of the goal.
For the majority of regulation, things looked hopeless for Atlanta United as attempt after attempt failed to tie things back up. Finally in the 79th minute, a corner kick by Pity Martinez, one of the few regular starters in the lineup for Atlanta that night, found Romario Williams who managed to find the back of the net and tie things at one goal apiece. At the end of regulation, the game was tied. Unlike in MLS regular season play, in the US Open Cup, a winner must be determined. This forced extratime, soccer’s term for overtime.
In the first period of extratime, not much happened. During the second period of extratime, Brandon Vazquez scored the go-ahead goal to give Atlanta United the 2-1 lead.
The Charleston Battery was not finished yet, though. They managed to take a shot at the goal, which was saved by Alec Kann, but a follow-up shot successfully found the back of the net. Though the initial shot was onside, the second shot was ruled offsides and the goal was waved off. Then the Battery came close to tying things up again, as a soft shot on goal bounced over Alec Kann’s head but hit the crossbar. Kann then casually picked up the ball and cleared in away.
During stoppage time in the second extratime period, Brandon Vazquez scored again, putting Atlanta United up 3-1 and dashing the Battery’s hopes of advancing in the US Open Cup. They were able to avoid going to penalty kicks to decide the winner, and punched their ticket to the next round.
Atlanta United will continue their US Open Cup run on Tuesday as they travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on fellow MLS side the Columbus Crew in the Round of 16. MLS play will resume June 26 with a road match against Toronto FC.