Vito Mannone: Atlanta hosting US Open Cup final a "massive flaw"

BLAINE, Minn – The U.S. Open Cup is a tournament where anything can happen, bringing together amateur and professional teams alike.

But some on Minnesota United argue Atlanta United have been given an unfair advantage before the final even starts Tuesday night (8 pm ET | ESPN+) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It’s a massive flaw for me,” said goalkeeper Vito Mannone. “I come from English football and it never happens at any stage where you play somebody in a final with one team playing in their own stadium. We made the final, too. We deserve the same as them. 

“Maybe if it were at a different venue or if, I’ve said this from the beginning, why don’t we play one game home and one game away? That seems fair, no?”

Atlanta will get to host their third final in less than 10 months, having won the 2018 MLS Cup and the 2019 Campeones Cup. Conversely, Minnesota’s Allianz Field, which opened this past April, has yet to host a game of this caliber.

The Open Cup final has long been played at home for one of the finalists, with 1999 the last time a non-MLS side (Rochester Rhinos) won. 

“It’s a final, it’s 90 minutes and anything can happen,” Mannone said. “We all know we can win and there is no worry on our end. But if you look at it, you see that it’s not fair, it’s not fair because we played both home and away to get there. Why do they get to play a final at home? It’s an advantage for the other side.”

Minnesota coach Adrian Heath also acknowledged how the tournament is run, and how this format has been a long-serving tradition. But he’s also focused on the larger goal.

“You’d be blind to say it isn’t an advantage, but it is what it is,” Heath said. “We knew what the rules were before we started the competition. Each side wants to win, the prize at the end of this is huge. We both want to feature in the Champions League. There is a massive opportunity presented before us and there’s a lot on the line.”

Not every Minnesota player sees the away match as a negative consequence, though. Ethan Finlay is thrilled for the opportunity to beat Atlanta at their own stadium. 

“We want to be the team that brought the first trophy to the club in the MLS era, not the team that almost won it,” Finlay said. “Can you imagine doing that in Atlanta? My god, the storyline is written right there. You can bet we’re excited to storm their house."