Of course, it was Poku. It was always going to be Poku.
Atlanta United’s first ever US Open Cup run came to a halt yesterday when a goal in the closing seconds of extra time gave Miami FC a 3-2 lead over Atlanta. Kwadwo Poku scored at the death to end the Five Stripes trophy run and while it definitely wasn’t the result we wanted, we don’t need to hang our heads.
First off, Atlanta has played six games in 19 days and have to play Columbus on Saturday and then play San Jose on Tuesday. That’s a lot of soccer. That much soccer results in lineup changes. Lineup changes result in unfamiliar results, like a loss to an NASL team – but Miami FC isn’t an ordinary NASL team. They are by far the best team in the North American Soccer League and were unbeaten in thirteen straight matches heading into the round of 16 match against Atlanta. Needless to say, these guys can play.
Atlanta United opened the scoring on the good side of a set piece. Kevin Kratz played a perfect cross to the head of Brandon Vasquez for a 35′ goal. We can’t brag on this kid enough. His second goal in the US Open Cup was his third of the season, and it was a beauty.
Scoring goals is usually awesome, right? Not when you’re Atlanta United in a USOC match! Against the battery, we saw Charleston answer United’s first goal of the match with one of their own just thirty seconds later. Last night, we saw Miami do the same. Just two minutes after Atlanta took the lead, Poku and Pinho worked their way down the field and scored leveled the game at 1-1.
Then, in the 52nd minute, the home side took the lead. Set pieces have never really been Atlanta’s thing defensively, and the story continued tonight. Rhett Bernstein headed the ball past a waiting Alec Kann, and Atlanta never saw the lead again.
They did manage to equalize, though. Andrew Carleton won a penalty in the box which gave the Five Stripes a chance to level the game from the spot. It was Gressel who took the shot, and if Daniel Vega didn’t botch the save it wouldn’t have found the net.
But there had to be a winner – and unfortunately, as we’ve come to expect of Atlanta United on the road, it wasn’t them. Harrison Heath gave the ball away towards the end of stoppage time which set up a counter attack led by no other than Kwadwo Poku, who ultimately found the net with technically just two seconds left in the stopping time period. Obviously, Atlanta was never able to equalize and their US Open Cup run came to an end – but it wasn’t all bad. At least we didn’t have to listen to those dreadful commentators talk about going into “overtime” for thirty more minutes
Although it was a disappointing loss, fans have to be satisfied with the young players they saw today. Brandon Vasquez, Andrew Carleton and Lagos Kunga were all playing up top in the second half, and though they weren’t able to come out on top, they all looked great. Andrew Carleton saw many scoring chances, won the penalty to set up Gressel’s goal, and even embarrassed some Miami FC defenders with his incredible on-ball skill. Brandon Vasquez scored yet again. Lagos Kunga looked good. Overall, It was just a fun match to watch thanks to the lineup.
Atlanta looks to finally take one on the road again Saturday when they play the Columbus Crew for the second time in as many weeks. The Five Stripes are 0-5-1 in their last six on the road, so even a draw should bring a smile to our faces.