The 2019 U.S. Open Cup Wrap-Up – in Photos
The 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final went right down to the wire with ten-man Atlanta United edging Minnesota United 2-1 at their Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of a record crowd (for an Open Cup Final) of 35,709. An own-goal from Chase Gasper and a wicked strike from Pity Martinez, both in the first half, set the 5-Stripes on their way to victory.
The Loons – spirited throughout – pulled one back early in the second half via Robin Lob but it wasn’t enough to keep the men from the ATL from picking up a debut Open Cup crown to go along with their 2018 MLS Cup and recently earned Campeones Cup.
Atlanta United were worthy winners on August 27, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of a record crowd of 35,709. The 2-1 result was a fitting end to a thrilling tournament – the 106th consecutive Open Cup.
Runners-up Minnesota United were understandably distraught – coming so close only to fall short is bound to leave you feeling melancholy. But the Loons are in the midst of a 2019 to remember and embrace. From laughing stock to contenders in MLS, Adrian Heath has built a squad to watch and savor -- and underestimate at your own peril.
They call him El Scientifico (the scientist), but there’s a bit of the artist about Minnesota United’s Colombian sensation Darwin Quintero. His six goals saw him bag the 2019 Open Cup Golden Boot and his celebrations were as elaborate as they were delightful.
Gio Savarese’s Portland Timbers were outstanding throughout the 2019 tournament, despite the rough luck of having to play three of their four games away from home. In the end, they came up just short in a 1-2 Semifinal loss to Minnesota United, but victories over arch-rivals Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy and the all-conquering LAFC make the Timbers a team to look out for when #USOC2020 rolls around.
They may have lost heavily in the Quarterfinal to Minnesota United (6-1), but USL Championship (second division) side New Mexico United captured our imagination in the 2019 Open Cup with wins over FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids (both of MLS) in a run of four games that were all played on the road. This is how we choose to remember them – celebrating a dramatic win over the Rapids – until such time as we meet again.
Orlando City were led by the panache of aging schemer Sacha Kljestan, Tesho Akindele and Dom Dwyer out on the field. A few bounces one way or the other and it might have been those Floridians in the Final instead of their rivals from Atlanta. But the Open Cup plays no favorites and Orlando – and their throngs of purple-clad supporters – will have to wait another year at least.
Second-tier Saint Louis FC conjured the old ghosts of the Missouri city’s ancient Cup heroes with a Cinderella that included shock wins over Chicago Fire and FC Cincinnati (both of MLS) before coming to an abrupt end in the Quarterfinals to Atlanta United. Every Open Cup needs its underdog strivers – and Saint Louis FC were most assuredly that.
Smiles, Pink Flamingoes and – at times – some fantastic soccer. First-year USL League One (third-tier) club Forward Madison seemed to have it all in their run to the Third Round. Between their social media mastery, pink jerseys and warm Wisconsin appeal, the men from Madison offered a new and cheerful face in American soccer.
Another part-timer striver was Florida’s Soccer Soldiers, founded this very year by former Venezuela international Daniel Godoy. Unmistakable in their bright neon jerseys, the Soldiers fought like lions in wins over pro sides Miami FC and Charlotte Independence (USL Championship) before going out to North Carolina FC in the Third Round. And see that man, Valentin Sabella, in the bottom right? He caught someone’s eye in that win over the Independence…
The Open Cup is defined by its amateur strivers – those teams that seem to come out of nowhere and set sights on their so-called betters. And they let the ball, the score and the day say what’s what. Orange County FC knocked off a pair of pro teams, including Eric Wynalda’s USL Championship side Las Vegas Lights, before going out to MLS’ LA Galaxy in the Fourth Round.
Sabella (right) rode his amazing performances in 2019 to a full professional contract. Just out of high school and pondering his future before the 2019 Open Cup, he’s now a paid squad member of the second-tier Independence and making waves on the cusp of a bright career in the American Game. Only in the Open Cup…