The magic of the cup was on full display Wednesday night at GEODIS Park. Nashville SC defeated Atlanta United in a dramatic come-from-behind win to advance to the US Open Cup Round of 16.
Facing off against a regional rival, the night could not have started more poorly for Nashville. Goals from Thiago Almada and Luiz Araújo put the Five Stripes ahead 2-0 within 29 minutes. Nashville were uncharacteristically poor in defense, with less than stellar moments from Joe Willis and Walker Zimmerman leading to the goals.
After the break, though, the Coyotes took over. After Aké Loba was dragged down in the box, Hany Mukhtar converted calmly from the penalty spot to pull Nashville back into the match. Zimmerman nearly equalized minutes later, drilling a header off the bar from close range.
Another Zimmerman equalizer was mystifyingly disallowed. The center back connected with a Mukhtar free kick, finding the back of the net with a trademark header, but referee Elton Garcia waved the goal off, seemingly for offside.
Nashville looked destined to crash out of the Open Cup and lose for the first time at GEODIS Park until second half stoppage time. Substitute CJ Sapong got on the end of a Brian Anunga cross/shot to expertly head home, flicking his shot towards goal with a pure striker’s finish.
Another expert finish from a substitute completed the comeback in extra time. Mukhtar played Ethan Zubak in behind the backline, and the attacker rounded an Atlanta defender and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, staying on his feet to squeeze a left-footed finish through an impossibly tight angle.
With a vibrant crowd of over 13,000 at GEODIS Park, the performance on the pitch more than lived up to the atmosphere. With a statement win in the rearview mirror, Nashville will learn their Round of 16 opponent tomorrow in a live-streamed draw. The draw can be watched on Futbol Americas, airing on ESPN+, at 7:30 pm CT.