Ezequiel Barco of Atlanta United dribbles past a Charleston Battery defender in the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: Eric Rossitch | Atlanta United
Atlanta United struggled with the Charleston Battery in the two teams’ Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Fourth Round matchup last year. In their rematch on Wednesday, it was much more straightforward as Atlanta blanked its former USL affiliate 3-0 in front of a sold-out Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga. to move on to the Round of 16 for the second year in as many tries.
As expected, Atlanta went with some fresh faces with Brandon Vazquez, Romario Williams and homegrown player Andrew Carleton getting the call in place of players like Michael Parkhurst, Josef Martinez and Jeff Larentowicz, while a few regulars like Ezequiel Barco and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez started as well. Miguel Almiron and Darlington Nagbe didn’t start but were part of an 18 with youngsters Chris Goslin and Yosef Samuel, while Martinez was left off the team sheet altogether.
After a relatively even first quarter of the match, Atlanta opened the scoring in the 14th on a laser of a goal by Carleton that found its way past a diving Odisnel Cooper – the first goal for the Atlanta-area native in first team action.
Things began to get a little physical as the game went on, with Charleston seeking to equalize in front of a partisan Atlanta crowd, but the match remained 1-0 at the break.
Atlanta, though, doubled its margin very early in the second. After Williams drew a penalty in the box, Barco stepped up and banked it off the crossbar and behind Cooper to make it 2-0. In the 65th minute, it was Williams with Atlanta’s third goal on the match on a perfect strike that beat the outstretched Cooper.
“I think we played well,” Atlanta United coach Tata Martino said afterwards. “I think we controlled the majority of the match and were able to win. It was important tonight that we were able to win it without (Martinez and Almiron) and with players like Brandon, Romario, Andrew, Miles (Robinson), Goslin and [Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu], just getting the young guys a lot of minutes.”
“I think my performance was solid,” said Williams. “I’m pleased with the performance. I could have been better with my touches on a couple of occasions, but for the most part it was good to get out there and get 90 minutes under my belt.”