Brandon Vazquez of Atlanta United celebrates one of his goals in the rain with teammate Justin Meram in his club’s Round of 16 match against the Columbus Crew in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Ralph Schudel | @schudel_ralph on Twitter and Instagram
The Round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup kicked off with Atlanta United traveling to MAPFRE Stadium to take on Columbus Crew SC in what seemed to be a reasonably overcast evening.
Unlike last time, where there were many showers of rain blessed upon the folks at MAPFRE Stadium, and Crew SC were victorious 2-0. That wasn’t the case this time around as Atlanta United defeated Columbus, 3-2 to punch their ticket to the Quarterfinals for the first time.
Atlanta United got the opening goal in the fifth minute when a poor giveaway from David Guzman gave Brandon Vazquez the room to slide the ball past goalkeeper Jon Kempin to give the away side a 1-0 lead.
“We have to recognize moments,” said Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer. “Hey, you can’t sit back. You have to track back sometimes. Sometimes an opponent will push you back. I think that’s the most important thing. We lost a little bit of the initiative. We always want the initiative.”
Columbus had a decent look on goal in the eighth minute when David Accam found Patrick Mullins inside the penalty area for a shot on goal. Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan was there for the save, however.
Miles Robinson doubled United’s lead when Barco served in a corner kick and Robinson got his head on the end of the service.
After 15 minutes, Crew SC found themselves down at home. As time progressed, Columbus found themselves getting stronger, gaining more possession, but Atlanta found a way to keep the Black and Gold at bay.
Atlanta nearly got a third in the 37th minute when former Crew winger Justin Meram found space inside the penalty area to take a shot, but it went just wide of the frame and out for a goal kick.
Vazquez almost got his second goal of the game when another bad backpass let Vazquez in on goal all alone, but his sharp-angle attempt hit the far post and back into play.
Columbus would get a goal back in the 40th minute when David Accam got his second goal in as many US Open Cup matches to cut the deficit to one goal.
Columbus would hold the halftime momentum from Accam’s goal as both teams would go to their respective locker rooms, Atlanta holding the 2-1 advantage.
The second half brought Deja Vu when the rain started falling heavily.
Atlanta would extend their league when Vazquez notched his brace in the 65th minute, slotting the ball past Kempin at the far post to extend the lead to 3-1.
Vazquez is now tied for the tournament lead in goals with four, alongside the Richmond Kickers’ Charles Boateng.
Waylon Francis made his return to the Crew SC lineup with a bang, pulling Columbus within one yet again in the 71st minute when his shot took a deflection off of an Atlanta defender and into the back of the net.
Minutes later, Mother Nature got involved when a severe weather delay was placed in effect in the 75th minute. This would be good for Columbus as they attempted to regroup during the break, hoping to score an equalizer in the final 15 minutes.
Brandon Vazquez of Atlanta United celebrates one of his goals with his teammates in his club’s Round of 16 match against the Columbus Crew in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Ralph Schudel | @schudel_ralph on Twitter and Instagram
After approximately 49 minutes, the game resumed after both teams agreed to have a 10-minute warm up.
After play resumed, neither team was able to find another goal, but the game didn’t end without controversy.
In the final minute of the match, Accam was brought down in the penalty area but center official Guido Gonzalez Jr. decided not to award a penalty kick. The entire Columbus bench and staff swarmed the referee to offer their opinion on the no-call.
“The way that the official handled the last 15 minutes was shocking,” said a baffled and irate Caleb Porter. “It’s one of the tough things about this competition. They trial officials and see how they do. It’s disappointing. These games, there’s a lot at stake. You need high-level officials that know how to smell a game and manage it.”
With Columbus still struggling to get past the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup, their attention now is focused on the real prize, and that’s making a hard push for the playoffs during league play.
“With the Open Cup gone, we’re going to throw everything into the last 18 games, and we need to approach these games with the same attitude, effort, and density.”
Atlanta will now await the winner of Saint Louis FC and FC Cincinnati in the Round of Eight.
“We only go for one thing and that’s to win the cup,” said de Boer.
With the win, this is Atlanta’s first trip to the Quarterfinals, They are the first Georgia team to reach the Quarterfinals since 2014 Atlanta Silverbacks led by head coach Eric Wynalda.