For the 106th time the U.S. Open Cup will be lifted tonight inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The two teams vying for the oldest trophy in U.S. soccer have both never won this competition. Atlanta United will be looking to add another trophy to the cabinet after winning MLS Cup in 2018 and winning the Campeones Cup earlier this year. Minnesota United will be looking to win their first trophy since joining the MLS in 2017.
For Minnesota United winning the U.S. Open Cup would help to elevate their status in the North American soccer landscape. Callum Williams, play-by-play announcer for Minnesota, says this about the competition, “Winning any sort of hardware elevates any franchise in any sport around the world. But with the history behind the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and the meaning it holds to so many soccer fans across the USA, it just means so much more. MNUFC can deliver the first mens major league trophy for Minnesota since 1991 and in doing so will so their rising reputation in North America, sparkle a little brighter.”
For Atlanta another trophy would further strengthen their argument for being one of the best expansion teams in the leagues history. After a rocky start to the season, they have regained their form under new coach Frank de Boer. Victory in this year’s final would give them a spot in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League and the chance to make a deeper run in that competition after being eliminated in the quarter finals this year. This game will be sure not to disappoint and below are five things you should be aware of heading into the final.
When And Where To Watch, And Team Info
The final kicks off at 5 PM MST and will be shown on ESPN+, which is a shame as the U.S. Open Cup final deserves to be broadcast on ESPN or ESPN 2. Both of these teams entered the MLS in the same season. In 2017, Minnesota and Atlanta kicked off their MLS franchises in very different circumstances. Atlanta took a more methodical approach to joining the MLS focusing on building a brand in Atlanta and going out and spending money on a big name coach. They saw immediate success selling out Bobby Dodd Stadium before moving into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and regularly drawing 70,000+ crowds. Minnesota took a slightly different approach. They came up from the NASL and brought with them some of the players that made them successful. There wasn’t a big influx of cash as they looked to build a soccer specific stadium to call home. While Atalanta had success immediately, Minnesota struggled finishing 9th and 10th in their first two seasons.This year has seen a turnaround for Minnesota with the opening Allianz Field and a few new acquisitions they are sitting at 5th in the West and look likely to qualify for the playoffs for the first time.
Because both of these teams came into the MLS at the same time there has been a bit of a rivalry that has developed between them. One that for the most part has been dominated by Atlanta. In four meetings, the Loons have only been able to get one win back in 2017. In those four meetings, Minnesota has been outscored 12 to 4. Look for Minnesota to show up today for this game. A win over a team that has had your number for a couple of years could spark them to an MLS cup run.
Atlanta United vs Minnesota United What To Watch
Atlanta should not be overlooked in this match. They are currently on six match win streak across all competitions with their last defeat coming July 26th against Los Angeles FC. On top of that Atlanta are impressive at home. They have scored in the their last seven home games and it will be a challenge for Minnesota to keep them off the board with Josef Martinez always seeming to get into a scoring position. They have only allowed three goals in the last five home games as well. Atlanta have made Mercedes-Benz Stadium a fortress. It will be interesting to see what Adrian Heath does tactically to give Minnesota United a shot at winning.
The big turnaround for Minnesota this year has been the offseason acquisitions of Ike Opara, Jan Gregus, and Osvaldo Alonso. These players have formed a spine for this Minnesota United team that has allowed them to close out games and keep clean sheets. Opara was brought over from Sporting Kansas City and has been solid at the back for Minnesota. While Gregus and Alonso have provided cover in the midfield. This has allowed the Minnesota United attack to flourish with the likes of Darwin Quintero, Ethan Finlay, and Angelo Rodriguez (who is currently out injured). With a victory tonight, Minnesota could gain a lot of confidence which could propel them to a deep run in the MLS Cup playoffs.
No matter who wins tonight there will be a new team winning the oldest competition in U.S. soccer. For a neutral that is always an exciting spectacle to watch. The joy of the players, coaches, and supporters as they watch their team lift a cup that predates all of them. For Minnesota, it means so much more. This would be the first piece of hardware in their MLS history. It would the singing of Wonderwall that much more sweeter.
Atlanta United vs Minnesota United Prediction
Overall, this is a hard game to predict. Atlanta United have been flying lately at home and Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a tough place to come and get a result. However, Minnesota United should be playing with chip on their shoulder. Not only the desire to get another victory over the team they came into the league with, but to lift a trophy. I believe that it all comes down to how Alonso and the Minnesota backline handle the attack of Atlanta United. Martinez likes to run the channels and Pity Martinez is always looking for that cutting pass. This will not stay scoreless. My heart says Minnesota United, but my head tells me that Atlanta will be lifting the cup tonight at home. I think they will walk out 3-2 winners in what is going to be an exciting match up.
Prediction: Atlanta United - 3 Minnesota United - 2