The Five Stripes Recap: Open Cup, GA Cup, MLS, and More

This has been an exceptionally busy week for Atlanta United and to save anyone reading this from an entire article, this recap is going to be a little different. Between the two games, injury news, rumours, no-rumours, and last week’s GA Cup, there were tons to be covered. It seems a long time ago that Brad Guzan was laid out on the grass at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but at this point, the polar bear is already receiving treatment and has undergone surgery. Where does the time go? What did we do last year during the hilarious crowd schedule? Regardless, let’s delve into the past week and give you everything you need to know about Atlanta United.

It all started with a very win-win game against FC Cincinnati at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It ended up without any goals even though Five Stripes turned the pressure over and over again. I honestly felt like the game might be 3-1 Atlanta (or more for Cincinnati, the Atlanta defense was tied), but the ball wouldn’t land in the net. Former Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kahn showed his ability at the start and made some good saves, including Caleb Wiley’s penalty. Marcelino Moreno went up to the penalty spot and Alec knew it the whole time; Mando was going right, and Kahn took the step before Moreno’s foot touched the ball.

It’s also worth noting that Thiago Almada plays with the ball, and although he hasn’t been able to score another goal since his victory in Gullazo and Goal of the Week two weeks ago, he shows his efficiency in every moment on the pitch. This is likely why he continues to vote to lead Spike Gold.

But the bigger story from the Cincinnati game was another injury. Halfway through the second half, Brad Guzan fell into a pile as he ran out of goal to get a recycled pass. No one was around. There was no contact, it looked like he had fallen unconventionally on his foot and suddenly he was pointing at his leg and waving to the physical therapy staff. Fast forward two days and the diagnosis is a torn Achilles. The good news is that he has already undergone surgery, and the bad news is that he has left Atlanta United in a precarious position due to the depth of his guard.

With Dylan Castanheira out with an Achilles tear, leaving Bobby Shuttleworth, Justin Garces and Vicente Reyes as the real choice between the first and second teams. Fortunately, Atlanta was able to use two signatures of extreme hardship to bring Garces to US Open Cup match and weekend match against Inter Miami. Now, between reports from Felipe Cardenas and Cesar Luis Merlo, Rocco’s private Instagram stories and Darren Eales’ mouthful this morning, it looks like our old friend Rocco Rios Novo will be joining the Five Stripes again from Lanus on loan. We’ll definitely see him as Bobby Shuttleworth’s backup, leaving Garces and Reyes full time with 2.

In the midst of all those hoaxes, it’s also been revealed that Atlanta has some serious interest in it USMNT Striker Matthew Hobby.

In many ways, this transaction makes a lot of sense, in others it’s incredibly confusing/somewhat unsettling. Let’s look at the pros first.

Matthew Hope didn’t have much time with the USMNT. He’s hungry and doesn’t get much time in La Liga with Mallorca, so he’s deprived of a chance to show he can make his way into this no-one’s No 9 spot under Greg Berhalter’s side. On top of that, he’d come on a U-22 initiative and his salary wasn’t a crazy thing at this point, so the financially young striker makes a lot of sense. It also adds a ridiculous amount of dark arts abilities in the same way that Dom Dwyer does, i.e. it’s just too annoying to play against.

This is where things get a bit muddy. Atlanta has upfront options. Joseph, of course, is recovering from minor knee surgery, while Dom Dwyer, Ronaldo Cisneros and Jackson Conway race for minutes. They’ve all shown flashes of a few traits, but no one has managed to break through as the true backup/replacement for Joseph (although Dom did well in the Open Cup match, he’ll talk more about that in a moment). Cisneros received little time, though with a couple of chances he didn’t have the finishing touch needed to put the ball into the back of the net, and Jackson Conway feels stuck somewhere between USL and MLS in terms of finishing. Cisneros is only on loan for part of the season, so the leash seems short in terms of keeping him around if production isn’t going quickly. Conway feels he is one goal away from getting out, but he got chances and unfortunately he didn’t take advantage of them. This, of course, leaves Dom Dwyer as Joseph’s backup, so where’s Matthew Hobby?

Hard to say at this point. Does the front office know something about Joseph’s knee or Joseph’s mindset that they’re really interested in trying to get through the match on the swing? It’s a possibility, but this surgery, in theory, should help Joseph get back to his best form since 2019. Ditching Cisneros and loaning Jackson out might make sense, keeping Joseph and Dwyer ready to prepare Hoppe for that next step in his career. Who knows, and this is all speculation, but Atlanta United’s head scouts Jonathan Spector made a visit to Mallorca to watch Matthew… sit.

Moving into the middle of the week, Atlanta United began defending their US Open title, the trophy they have now held for three years thanks to The club is the most legitimate in existence Corona virus disease. First of all, props to Chattanooga FC to get into the 5th-Third Bank Stadium to take part in Action at the Fraction, and make it a point to try and play their brand of soccer. However, the quality of the Five Stripes came out, and they were finally able to find the back of the network after two previous shutdowns. The final score ended 6-0, thanks to a Dom Dwyer brace (and they were beautiful goals) plus the additions of Araujo, Hernandez, Lennon and Moreno.

Atlanta United needed a dominant win like this. At this point, it was screamed from the rooftops but it didn’t matter where the targets were coming from. Sometimes stacking cards on an opponent you know you can easily defeat is the best way to gain momentum on your side, so there is hope that this will carry over into playing MLS and beyond.

The Five Stripes’ next round of the US Open will take place on May 11 at 8 PM ET against Nashville in their brand new stadium. It won’t be an easy task, but it isn’t insurmountable either. Every now and then, more players will recover, and perhaps Cisneros will be able to reach the ninth place with Dwyer. Most important is the return of Luis Araujo and chemistry with Almada and Moreno, a trio that may be what it takes to break Nashville’s crust. Speaking of Araujo, his goal in the Open Cup match against Chattanooga which you can see in the clip above is sheer beauty.

Finally, it’s time to celebrate Atlanta United Academy. The U-17 and U-15 youth team finished the Adidas Generation Cup in the last 16 and semi-finals, respectively.

Adyn Torres made the top 11 in the competition, with two others honorably mentioned in Ashton Gordon and Rocket Ritarita (what a name and in so many years when he was 21, there’d be a margarita named after him at Benz). Needless to say, this was a successful competition for the young boys and an absolute gem of the experience for them.

The academy also has 15 different players committing to colleges across the country, which is a huge step in their careers. The academy’s production rate of talent is staggering, and the team has already reaped those benefits in the likes of men like George Campbell and Caleb Wiley.

Finally, Tyler Wolf and Noah Cope both got calls for their national team. Wolff heads to the U-20 squad while Kopp moves to the U-19 squad.

This will do it guys. There has been plenty of action around the grounds of The Five Stripes but there is a sense of cautious optimism as the weekend approaches. Hopefully, Atlanta can continue their dominant performance in the Open Cup to a solid away win in Fort Lauderdale. As usual, we’ll be on the Twitter Spaces after the fact of talking about how this happened, so be sure to jump into the conversation with us!

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