Sluggish Atlanta United takes a 1-0 loss to Chicago Fire in U.S. Open Cup
While the world spent Wednesday focused on group stage play of the 2018 World Cup, a different Cup was up for grabs at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United’s U.S. Open cup play ended in the Round of 16 with a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire. The third oldest soccer tournament in the world is played less seriously for many MLS clubs, and it really showed Wednesday night for Atlanta.
A starting line up missing Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, and Brad Guzan began the game aggressively, pushing the ball into Fire territory, but could never connect.
Timing and ball placement between teammates became a major issue for United in the match much to the frustration of the home crowd. The Open Cup record-breaking 41,012 in attendance were noticeably silent until a chant broke out in the 25th minute and spent most of the match trying to wake the team up rather than cheer on exciting plays.
All the blame cannot be placed on one player, but the night was not kind to Romario Williams. He was handed multiple opportunities throughout the night to score but could never put it all together. In the first half, Williams even had a one-on-one opportunity but fired a shot well within keeper Richard Sánchez’s grasp.
After the half, the entire squad looked to be playing at half pace, and Chicago took advantage. The Fire were not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but in the 53rd minute Bastian Schweinsteiger intercepted an Atlanta pass, quickly sent it to Luis Solignac who tapped the ball to Nemanja Nikolic and in the net it sank.
Manager Tata Martinez would try to revive his team in the 62nd minute, sending Julian Gressel and Ezequiel Barco on but the damage was done. The lineup all match had not seen much play with one another, and it showed. The team was uncharacteristically sluggish and honestly gave wonder if they actually cared to win.
Thankfully Wednesday’s loss does not count towards the Supporters Shield, nor does it count towards Atlanta’s MLS record. Atlanta United has a quick turnaround this week as they face a test that counts on Sunday against the Western Conference Portland Timbers. The team will be back with their more standard lineup that can hopefully show a much-improved level of chemistry than that of Wednesday night.
By Caleb Johnson