Before closed doors at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia, Atlanta United needed extra time to stave off USL Championship side Charleston Battery on Thursday evening and secure a 3-1 win in fourth-round action of the U.S. Open Cup.
As penalty kicks loomed, a Brandon Vazquez extra-time brace sealed the deal in the striker’s first appearance of the 2019 season. He first made it 2-1 in the 110th minute when rounding Charleston goalkeeper Phil Breno, then tapped home at the back post in the 121st minute to make it 3-1.
Before the Five Stripes’ comeback roared, Charleston found the breakthrough in the 20th minute on a lapse in Atlanta’s defensive third, as right back Franco Escobar was dispossessed by winger A.J. Patterson. He centered for center forward Ian Svantesson, who made it 1-0 with a smooth finish to the far post past Alec Kann.
Atlanta pressed for an equalizer, and it seemed one wouldn’t arrive after Breno finished with 10 saves. But his one true mistake arose in the 79th minute, flapping on a Pity Martinez corner kick that Miles Robinson squared back across the six-yard box. On the doorstep was Romario Williams, who tapped home against his former team.
The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening, though was moved after field conditions at MUSC Health Stadium in South Carolina were deemed unplayable.
- 20' – CHS – Ian Svantesson | WATCH
- 79' – ATL – Romario Williams | WATCH
- 110' – ATL – Brandon Vazquez | WATCH
- 120+1' – ATL – Brandon Vazquez | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Atlanta, fielding a mix of starters and substitutes, avoided a Cupset by beating Charleston for the third straight year in this tournament. However, the defending MLS Cup champions were pushed to the brink and had to slug it out to book a spot in the Round of 16.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: After Atlanta took the 2-1 lead, Charleston came oh-so-close to a late equalizer on two occasions. An apparent Nicque Daley goal was ruled offsides in the 117th minute, and Arthur Bosua struck the crossbar on a delicate chip in the 119th minute. Then Vazquez's second goal came, settling the tie.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: In a match desperate for attacking quality, Brandon Vasquez provided exactly that in the second stanza of extra time. Before Thursday, he hadn't yet played for Atlanta's first team in 2019, though surely has now given head coach Frank de Boer something to think about.
- ATL: Tuesday, June 18 at Columbus Crew SC, U.S. Open Cup (7 pm ET | ESPN+)
- CHS: Saturday, June 15 at Tampa Bay Rowdies, USL Championship (6:30 pm ET)