PREVIEW – The 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final is upon us. Atlanta United FC hosts Minnesota United FC. Both teams joined Major League Soccer in 2017 under very different circumstances, but their paths have crossed again.
2019 U.S. Open Cup Preview: 2017 Expansion Teams Clash
MLS teams that join the league in the same year often get compared and can develop a rivalry. Some fans would argue the rivalry started off the pitch with United-gate.
Tale of two starts:
The Loons built up to becoming first division in 2017 for years in the lower divisions and several owners. The club joining MLS, opening Allianz Field, and possibly making the playoffs has been a slow buildup. Atlanta United took MLS by storm in their first year, with fans packing Mercedes-Benz Stadium and a South American style of play that went on to win MLS Cup last year. It should be noted than many around the league did not see this coming and thought Atlanta would struggle, at least in attendance.
Their first ever meeting in competition was Minnesota’s MLS home opener, a 6-1 drubbing by the Five Stripes. Captain and DP defender Vadim Demidov was immediately exposed as was the record-setting Loon defense. Atlanta showed their attacking flare, despite the game being played on a snowy turf field at TCF Bank Stadium.
This game was an omen for how the season would go for both teams, with Josef Martinez scoring a bunch of goals on way to making the playoffs. Meanwhile, Minnesota were one of the worst teams in the league. It should be noted that later that year, the Loons got a surprise win at Mercedes-Benz 3-2.
Success and Progress:
2018 saw both teams change things up, with one winning a trophy. Minnesota improved the offense significantly but not the defense. They again missed out on the playoffs, but Darwin Quintero showed he was legit.
On the other side, Martinez won the Golden Boot and the MLS MVP. The Five Stripes won the only match between these two sides 1-0. They narrowly missed out on the Supporters’ Shield but won MLS Cup. With Miguel Almiron being sold to England and Tata Martino leaving for Mexico, both clubs had big decisions to make to have success in 2019.
It all comes together tomorrow:
This season has been exciting (not always in a good way) for both teams. Both are in a playoff position. Minnesota brought in Osvaldo Alonso and Ike Opara to sure up the defense. The club’s played well in their new home, that helped them make the U.S. Open Cup Final.
On the other side, Frank de Boer has struggled to adjust to MLS and his team. Pity Martinez took time adjusting to MLS as well. The team got going a few months ago with a good run of form at home and against Eastern Conference opponents.
Both teams need to and are expected to make the playoffs. Atlanta supporters want their club to mount a strong effort in defending their MLS Cup championship. Both coaching staffs and front offices would say 2019 is a success with an Open Cup title and a playoff appearance.
And so these two young clubs cross paths again. The surprising giant looking to maintain a super club status and the tortoise who looked so far out of it just two years ago. A single game tomorrow at 8 PM EST could send shock waves along the path ahead for both sides.