Atlanta United knocked out of U.S. Open Cup by Indy Eleven

Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley #26 dribbles the ball during the US Open Cup match against the Indy Eleven at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, GA on Tuesday July 9, 2024. (Photo by  Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United)

Credit: Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United

Credit: Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley #26 dribbles the ball during the US Open Cup match against the Indy Eleven at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, GA on Tuesday July 9, 2024. (Photo by Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United’s best chance to win a trophy this season ended with a 2-1 loss to Indy Eleven in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday at Kennesaw State.

It was Atlanta United’s third consecutive loss and another in which the offense, hindered by the loss of dynamic players Giorgos Giakoumakis and Thiago Almada, failed to consistently trouble its opponent. Indy Eleven was allowing more than one goal per game in USL. Atlanta United’s goal was scored by Nic Firmino in the 92nd minute. It was the third time in four matches that Atlanta United scored in the final minutes.

“We lack a little bit of edge there in the final third,” interim manager Rob Valentino said. “There were some half-chances. Really difficult to break down when they’re that deep, as well. We need some more movement. When we have a team penned in their box, we need to move the ball really, really quick and have some quality with it.”

Around the 78th minute, some of Atlanta United’s supporters began chanting “please score a goal, please score a goal, please score a goal, please score a goal.”

“I think we’re getting into decent positions and I feel like we’ve been seeing that all year but scoring goals, we aren’t doing it as often as we want to and should,” Firmino said. “It’s so hard for us to score and teams get easier goals than us and we’re always chasing the game. It’s definitely something to work on.”

The match’s only other highlight was also a chant and cheer for Caleb Wiley, who likely played his last match for Atlanta United. He will join the U.S. team playing in the Olympics. By the time that is over, his transfer from Atlanta United to Chelsea should be complete, according to information provided by club Vice President Carlos Bocanegra before the match.

Valentino’s lineup was composed of Firmino at striker, Tyler Wolff, Saba Lobjanidze, Tristan Muyumba and Jay Fortune in the midfield, Wiley, and Ronald Hernandez as the wingbacks, Stian Gregersen, Efrain Morales and Luis Abram as the centerbacks, and Josh Cohen in goal.

Atlanta United fell behind 1-0 in the 31st minute on a goal by Augustine Williams, who one-timed a cross. Indy Eleven jumped on a turnover by Atlanta United’s Muyumba near midfield and two passes later, one from Benjamin Ofeimu to Douglas Martinez down the right flank and one from Martinez to Williams to run onto behind Atlanta United’s back line, and Indy Eleven had its lead.

Protecting that lead, Indy Eleven was able to play defensively and compactly, making Atlanta United’s challenge more difficult.

Atlanta United failed to put a shot on goal in the first half. It created three chances.

Atlanta United had two shots on goal through 56 minutes, when Dax McCarty, Matt Edwards and Luke Brennan subbed on for Muyumba, Wolff and Wiley, who received a standing ovation followed by chants of “Ca-leb Wi-ley.”

Brennan’s header from six yards in the 63rd minute was Atlanta United’s best chance to that point but the shot was pushed over the crossbar. A shot by Firmino was saved in the 70th minute.

Daniel Rios came on for Lobjanidze in the 71st minute as Atlanta United searched for the tying goal.

Indy Eleven’s second came from an own goal charged to McCarty in the 83rd minute.

Atlanta United has two more trophies to pursue: the MLS Cup and Leagues Cup. The team is in 10th place in the East, one slot below the playoff line. The Leagues Cup is scheduled to start July 26. Based upon Atlanta United’s inability to defeat a team from a lower division, it seems unlikely that it will be able to successful get through a tournament composed of teams from MLS and LIGA MX.

Valentino said he doesn’t feel that the players are being negatively affected by the loss of quality players.

He said he’s spoken to the players several times that players will come to help but they can’t even play until the transfer window opens on July 18. He has shared a quote with them that his wife told him, “Be where your feet are.”

Valentino said he wants to maximize everything he can from the players he has.

“We’ve got games to play,” “No one’s going to feel sorry for myself, or sorry for the staff or the players that you aren’t winning games or you are winning games. There’s not going to be any emotion either way. You’ve got a game, you’re got to play and you’re supposed to win. No one cares that no one’s not here.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte Independence 0 in U.S. Open Cup

May 11 D.C. United 3, Atlanta United 2

May 15 Cincinnati 1, Atlanta United 0

May 18 Atlanta United 1, Nashville 1

May 21 Atlanta United 0 (5), Charleston 0 (4) in U.S. Open Cup

May 25 LAFC 1, Atlanta United 0

May 29 Atlanta United 3, Miami 1

June 2 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 2

June 15 Atlanta United 2, Houston 2

June 19 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

June 22 Atlanta United 1, St. Louis 1

June 29 Atlanta United 2, Toronto 1

July 3 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 6 Real Salt Lake 5, Atlanta United 2

July 9 Indy Eleven 2, Atlanta United 1

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.