Atlanta United humiliated by Indy Eleven: shock and elimination in the Open Cup

On a historic night, Indy Eleven beat MLS giants to advance to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
Jul 9, 2024; Kennesaw, Georgia, USA; Indy Eleven goalkeeper Hunter Sulte (0) makes a save against the Atlanta United in the second half at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2024; Kennesaw, Georgia, USA; Indy Eleven goalkeeper Hunter Sulte (0) makes a save against the Atlanta United in the second half at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

In the decisive clash of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the modest Indy Eleven made history by beating the mighty Atlanta United, advancing to the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time. It was a night of glory for the Boys in Blue, who showed that the impossible can happen in soccer.

Indy Eleven's victory was no accident. Coached by former Minnesota United FC assistant and interim coach Sean McAuley, the Boys in Blue arrived prepared and with a well-defined strategy. Augustine Williams opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark, and an own goal from Dax McCarty extended the lead. Atlanta United, meanwhile, looked lost on the pitch, unable to react effectively.

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The team from Indianapolis, which has been growing since its creation in 2013, showed that it is ready for bigger challenges. Victory over an MLS opponent in the Open Cup is a significant milestone for the club and a sign that they are ready to take on anyone who crosses their path. And that's not all: this victory also put Indy Eleven among the semi-finalists of the competition, a feat that only one other team from the state of Indiana had achieved before, the Indianapolis Inferno in 1992.

But it wasn't an easy win. The first half was marked by several fouls and a truncated rhythm, but Indy Eleven were able to take advantage of the opportunities created by Atlanta United's infringements. The fouls committed by the home side resulted in dangerous set pieces that gave Indy the chance to control the tempo and put pressure on the opposing defense.

The second goal, the result of a Williams cross that was deflected in by an opposing defender, only sealed Atlanta United's fate. Even with a late goal from Nick Firmino, the MLS side were unable to overturn the deficit and were eliminated from the competition.

Josh O'Brien and Sebastian Guenzatti were Indy's offensive highlights, while Benjamin Ofeimu and Hunter Sulte held the defense together. Coach Sean McAuley was full of praise for his team after the win, highlighting the players' confidence and positive attitude. According to McAuley, "we came out with a really strong attitude to get to goal and defend with everything we had."

Indy Eleven now move on to face the winner of the semi-final between FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City. It will be a new challenge, this time away from home, but the Boys in Blue have already proven that they have the grit and ability to overcome any obstacle.

"I remember many of our players throwing their bodies in front of the ball, the goalkeeper coming in and crossing at critical moments that calmed things down, and all, many of the players running hard to keep what we had and we're in the semifinal," added McAuley.

For Atlanta United, elimination is a huge blow. The club, which already won the Open Cup in 2019, is going through a transitional phase with numerous transfers and an interim coach. Currently outside the MLS playoff zone, the team needs to find a way to regain its rhythm and become competitive again.

The defeat to Indy Eleven exposed several weaknesses in Atlanta United, who failed to impose themselves at any stage of the game. The changes to the squad and the lack of familiarity were evident, and elimination from the Open Cup only adds to the pressure on the team and its coaching staff.

For Indy Eleven fans, victory is a dream come true. Seeing the team advance to the semi-finals of the Open Cup, leaving behind an MLS giant, is proof that hard work and dedication can lead to success. History has been written, and the Boys in Blue remain steadfast in their quest for the title.

Meanwhile, the world of soccer continues to spin, and the surprises never stop. Indy Eleven showed that in soccer, determination and the will to win can overcome any opponent, no matter how big or powerful.