Columbus Crew SC became the latest team eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in what may have perhaps been the team’s best opportunity to win a trophy in the first season under new head coach Caleb Porter. The Black & Gold fell 3-2 to Atlanta United to bow out of the competition in the Round of 16.
Almost as if déjà vu occurred, Tuesday’s matchup nearly mirrored the last meeting between the two teams at MAPFRE Stadium in late March. Heavy rain and slippery conditions interfered with play just as it did last time with the only difference being a favorable result for the away team.
It was a quick start to the game for Atlanta, who jumped to a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute due to a poor giveaway by Columbus midfielder David Guzman, which led to an easy one-on-one finish for forward Brandon Vazquez on goalkeeper Jon Kempin.
The consistent narrative of poor defending from the season on set pieces allowed United to double their lead off of a corner kick in the 14th minute courtesy of Miles Robinson to extend the Atlanta lead to 2-0.
Columbus saw a couple of early chances which were stopped short by the help of strong play in net by Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan. United dominated the first 15 minutes of the game, maintaining nearly 60% of the possession battle.
The Black & Gold didn’t help themselves much after conceding two quick goals. United controlled most of the remaining first half especially in the final third, completing 86% of their passes in that area.
The heart of Columbus fans nearly skipped a beat in the 31st minute when midfielder Pedro Santos went down with what looked like a lower leg injury. After a quick few-minute rest on the sidelines, he was hobbled but back on the field to see out the rest of the game.
Vazquez nearly doubled his goal tally on the night to put Atlanta up 3-0 but hit the post after Kempin missed a clearance when he came off his line in the 39th minute.
Two minutes later, Columbus was able to get the team’s first of two goals on the night when Luis Argudo picked up a loose ball on the wing and found fellow winger David Accam in the middle of the penalty box for a far post finish. It was Accam’s second goal in as many weeks in Open Cup play.
Heavy rain was a factor throughout the second half, which made for very poor conditions on the pitch and clearly affected play.
Columbus nearly grabbed an equalizer in the 58th minute after a shot by Accam was saved by Guzan through the midst of slippery chance after slippery chance.
Atlanta all but sealed the fate of the Black & Gold after getting an insurance goal seven minutes later courtesy of Vazquez, making the score 3-1.
The Black & Gold were able to add a glimmer of hope late as a low cross from Waylon Francis deflected off Brad Guzan in the 71st minute and into the back of the net, cutting the scoreline to 3-2.
A severe weather alert in the 75th minute was the beginning of a 49-minute rain delay.
Play resumed at 9:27 p.m. with United able to maintain their advantage over the Crew and book their spot in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup. Atlanta will face the winner of Wednesday night’s St. Louis FC and FC Cincinnati matchup in the next round.
Columbus look forward to making up for a string of poor results before the break in MLS play. The Black & Gold host Western Conference opponent Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, June 23 at MAPFRE Stadium. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m.