A goal from Pity Martinez created by smart work from Emerson Hyndman in his debut lifted Atlanta United past St. Louis 2-0 on Wednesday at Kennesaw State and into the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
Atlanta United will play Orlando in the next round. The draw for who will host is at 2 p.m. Thursday and is scheduled to be broadcast on U.S. Soccer’s social media platforms. The next round will be Aug. 7. The championship will be Aug. 27 or 28.
It was the type of smart, professional performance that Atlanta United hasn’t had in its past four league games. Atlanta United outshot the outclassed St. Louis 21-11, outpossessed by more than 40 percent, and held its focus during a tough final few minutes when three corner kicks defended and the margin still one goal.
“I can be very satisfied with the performance tonight,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. “We had a plan. We executed. We stayed concentrated.”
De Boer didn’t mess around with his starting 11, putting out a strong first team with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, fullbacks Brek Shea and Franco Escobar, centerbacks Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Miles Robinson, defensive midfielders Eric Remedi and Darlington Nagbe, debutant Hyndman in the middle, wide midfielders Justin Meram and Pity Martinez, and striker Josef Martinez.
St. Louis, which plays in the USL, did what most expected and bunkered in against Atlanta United’s strong lineup, using a five-man backline and four-man midfield to try to clog passing lanes and take away room for runs.
Still, Atlanta United created several good opportunities in the first half. Pity Martinez had a shot saved and put another wide after a tenacious run by Josef Martinez that broke several tackles. Hyndman had two shots blocked. Josef Martinez had a shot saved.
“We had runners everywhere,” de Boer said. “The surface was quite difficult, quite hard. When it was wet it was difficult to stay on your feet.”
Atlanta United broke through in the 53rd minute with a goal from Pity Martinez. The assist went to Hyndman, who sneakily dispossessed a St. Louis player with the ball in the penalty box and fed a short pass to Martinez to strike with his left foot. His curled effort landed in the top corner in a shot similar to his goal against Orlando City earlier this season.
The second goal was scored by Josef Martinez on a penalty kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time after Dion Pereira earned a foul in the box.
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