In a rare Tuesday night fixture Minnesota United heads down to the Peach State to play 2017 expansion rival Atlanta United in the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final. This is the second match against Atlanta in Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the Loons 2019 campaign. While it’s another match it’s the most important match since 2012 for MNUFC when they fell in the NASL Championship to Tampa Bay Rowdies on a penalty kick tiebreaker.
On the line tonight is a $300,000 prize and a berth to the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League. The $300K may not seem like a lot but the opportunity to play in a continental competition is a huge accomplishment for either team being in just their third MLS season. But after a hard fought but late loss MNUFC will have a lot of work on their hands.
“It was a tough defeat because I thought that we had done enough to take something from the game,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “When I look back at the game, we created some good opportunities. Once again, we really didn’t find the perfect pass in the final third. There was some pleasing stuff and some stuff that we know we need to work on and get better.”
Similar to the SKC match from last weekend the Loons will be coming in without a great record against Atlanta United. MNUFC has lost their last two matches to Atlanta and is 1-3 against them all time in competitive play.
“We know it’s going to be difficult,” said Heath. “It’s Atlanta, maybe one of the most difficult places to go and try to win a game and that’s what we have to do. It’s not a league game where you think, well, we’ll take a point, you’ve got to go and try to win it. It’s going to be difficult but we’ll prepare the best that we can and go and give it the best shot. The mood in the camp is good. It looks like we’ve got virtually everybody fit.”
Difficult in more than one way, the lackluster record against Atlanta is one thing, but both teams will need to make significant changes to their lineups based on USOC rules. Our own Colin O’Donnell talked about what you can expect from each side earlier today.
For those of you that aren’t traveling to the match you can catch it exclusively on ESPN+ with coverage starting at 6:45 CT and the match at 7:00 PM.
Minnesota United FC
Atlanta United FC
- Questionable: M – Eric Remedi (hip)
- Out: D – D – Brek Shea (knee), D – Franco Escobar (upper leg)
Players to Watch:
- Vito Mannone: MNUFC - Minnesota’s Vito Mannone has played every minute of every competitive match in 2019 for the Loons. In MLS play the Italian on loan from EFL Championship side Reading has 90 saves on 130 shots faced in MLS with 9 clean sheets. In Open Cup play he has conceded just 5 goals in four matches, the most being 2 goals in one match against Houston Dynamo in the Round of 16.
- Josef Martínez : AUFC - The 26 year old Venezuelan forward is one of the most prolific players in North American soccer. With 22 goals and 5 game winning goals on 43 shots on goal he is tied for second in goals in MLS play only behind LAFC’s Carlos Vela. US Open Cup play is a bit different for Josef however as he has only appeared in one of Atlanta’s four matches but did score a goal in it. The other 3 he was not in the squad, the first two being that he was with Venezuela playing in the Copa America.
Loonum Staff Predictions:
Seth Steffenhagen: 2-1 Loons
Jacob Schneider: 5-4 Loons, 3-3 after FT, two ET goals win it.
Ashle Norling: 3-1 Atlanta
Zak Lippert: 2-1 Loons
Colin O’Donnell: 3-1 Atlanta
Gustavo Navarrete: 3-2 Loons
Tim McLaughlin: 2-1 Loons
John Stephenson: 4-0 Atlanta