It would be understandable if Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhust were looking ahead in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. He wouldn’t be the only one eagerly anticipating a Final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which could attract a record-shattering crowd for the 106-year-old competition.
Atlanta United broke attendance records last season, with 73,019 (69,004 turnstile count) arriving for the MLS Cup final, a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers. The teams could be matched againt in the 2019 Open Cup Final, scheduled for August 27. If so, attendance will likely surpass the listed 41,012 (32,347 turnstile count) crowd that arrived for the Open Cup Round of 16 match at Mercedes-Benz last year and broke all previous attendance records for the tournament.
But, first, United must get past a tricky Semifinal showdown with Orlando City SC. “We’re two games away,” Parkhurst, 25 times capped for the U.S. National Team, told usopencup.com. “And we play an Orlando team that’s been up and down a little bit, but they are tough to play and they’re on a good run in this tournament. We have a rivalry with them and it’s going to be an intense game. But we know if we get by them we host the Final. And no matter who we play in the Final we like our chances.”
Going for the Cup
.@SaintLouisFC's wonderful underdog run has come to an end as the @USLChampionship side lose out 2-0 to @MLS champs @ATLUTD, who move through to their first-ever Open Cup Semifinal. #USOC2019 | 📺 Highlights pic.twitter.com/zISVTM0t1Y— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) July 11, 2019
“You have to win five games to win the trophy, so we wanted to get after it,” said Parkhurst, a steadying force in the Atlanta United defense. “We hadn’t gotten past the Round of 16 in our first two seasons and now we have the championship in sight. We understand what it takes to win in playoff games and the Semis are basically a playoff game, one and done. We’re confident but not overconfident.”
“When you make runs like that there are unsung heroes,” Parkhurst remembered. “In the Final, Wells Thompson scoring a goal – he’s not a guy you look back and remember for scoring a lot. But he helped deliver the first trophy and we were all happy for him, a great guy and hard worker. It sticks out when somebody young on the team steps up big.”
Driven on by a Famous Foxborough First
.@Chas_Battery gave them a scare, but @ATLUTD pulled clear in extra-time to put the finishing touches on a 3-1 win that sees them through to the Round of 16 & a date with fellow @MLS side @ColumbusCrewSC.#USOC2019 | 📺 Highlights pic.twitter.com/nLO7YnXlpt— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) June 14, 2019
Parkhurst, who re-signed with United before the season, has ruled out a return to his original MLS team. “When my time’s up I’ll probably be playing here,” he said.