KENNESAW — Atlanta United is in uncharted territory.
Atlanta advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in team history with a 2-0 victory over Saint Louis FC on Wednesday night at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Goals from Pity Martínez and Josef Martínez propelled United to victory over Saint Louis, a member of the USL Championship league.
The game marked the first time United had advanced past the round of 16 in the tournament. Now, it moves on to the semifinals, where it will play at MLS archrival Orlando City SC on Aug. 7. Orlando beat NYCFC on penalty kicks Wednesday night.
Should Atlanta beat Orlando, it would host the U.S. Open Cup championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Portland Timbers and Minnesota United will play in the other semifinal.
Even in the middle of a busy MLS schedule, Atlanta is not taking the U.S. Open Cup lightly. Coach Frank de Boer said he played his best possible lineup for a reason.
He wants to win.
“I’m eager to win every title (and) cup that we can win,” de Boer said. “I think we have a possibility to do that with a club like Atlanta United, so we have to go for it.”
The winner of the U.S. Open Cup will receive a spot in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League, adding extra motivation.
Veteran defender Brek Shea reiterated de Boer's comments.
“The team really want to win this,” Shea said. “It’s a trophy.”
Pity Martínez broke open a scoreless tie in the 52nd minute with a left-footed goal from inside the box. Emerson Hyndman, on loan from the Premier League’s AFC Bournemouth, made the assist to Martínez after stealing the ball from a Saint Louis FC player.
“I did the easy bit. He did the hard bit,” Hyndman said. “Obviously, he has a great quality, and it definitely showed tonight.”
Wednesday’s game was Hyndman’s first in an Atlanta United uniform. He said he had no problem coming to reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta because of its ambition to win.
“They’re shooting to win things, which is very important to me,” Hyndman said. “So naturally, I felt attracted to it immediately.”
Atlanta doubled its lead in the 90th minute on a penalty kick from Josef Martínez. Saint Louis' defender Sean Reynolds fouled Dion Pereira in the box to give United the penalty kick.
In the first half, Atlanta controlled the ball for 72.6 percent of the time but failed to create many opportunities.
Its best look at goal in the first half came in the fifth minute when midfielder Justin Meram booted a pass to a streaking Pity Martínez in the box. Martínez dribbled twice then fired a shot with his left foot from about 10 yards out. However, Saint Louis goalkeeper Tomás Gómez dove to his left and made a great save to prevent an early Atlanta United lead.
Martínez, the most expensive transfer in MLS history, was subbed out of two consecutive games entering Wednesday’s match. Both times, de Boer made some critical comments about Martínez’s play.
On Wednesday, de Boer had nothing but good things to say of the 26-year-old Argentinian.
“He played a really good game,” de Boer said. “I was really happy, of course, for him because he knows he wants to see his level (of play go) up. Today, he (made) a very good step in that.”