Atlanta United has experience, home field on its side in U.S. Open Cup

Atlanta United has the experience, the confidence that comes with that experience, and an enviable home record on its side heading into Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup game against Minnesota at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In front of its supporters, Atlanta United has knocked off Club America in the Campeones Cup, Monterrey in the Champions League and Portland in the MLS Cup in its last three games of major importance at home.

“Winning finals gives you confidence,” Atlanta United’s Pity Martinez said. “As individual players we have to keep growing and keep improving, and as a club as well we have to keep improving and keep fighting, and that’s what we want to do as long as we’re competing for finals.”

Atlanta United is 10-1-3 at home this season, 11-2-4 last season and 11-3-3 in 2017. It has lost just two knockout games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Chicago beat it in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 last year, and Columbus knocked it out in the first round of the playoffs in 2017. It went unbeaten at home in last year’s playoffs.

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Manager Frank de Boer said his players looked full of energy and confidence during Monday’s training session.

“I think that confidence just comes from experience,” Julian Gressel said. “We've played in big games, maybe even bigger games, in MLS Cup at home. You had all the 'we're the favorite' (storylines), all those kinds of things that you kind of feel like you've been in this position before. So that's where the confidence might come in. We obviously can't be overconfident. It's going to be a tough game. They're going to battle it out, just like they always do, especially against us, I feel like. It'll be a tough matchup but I'm looking forward to it and hopefully we come out on top.”

Minnesota, by contrast, has yet to play in a knockout game of this magnitude. It and Atlanta United were expansion teams in 2017. The Loons have yet to make the playoffs, but should do so this season. It has yet to play in the Champions League. It was eliminated in in its first game in the U.S. Open Cup in 2017 and, after advancing past its first game in 2018, knocked out in its in its second game. Minnesota United is fifth in the West this season with 42 points.

“It’s a very solid team,” de Boer said. “They are quick in counterattack. They know exactly what they want and don’t do strange things. It’s a really solid team and why it’s so difficult to beat them.”

Atlanta United defeated Minnesota 3-0 on May 29 on two goals from Josef Martinez and one from Franco Escobar to improve 3-1-0 in the series. Minnesota is a much better team since then with six wins in its next 13 league games. Manager Adrian Heath rested several key players in last week’s 1-0 loss at Sporting KC to be fresh for Tuesday.

De Boer said his team is also much better than when the teams last met. The Five Stripes won eight of their next 13 league games.

“Every team has its development during the season,” he said. “We did. They did. Hopefully, the level will be higher and with the same result.”