File photo courtesy Christian Inoferio / Rio Grande Valley FC
KENNESAW, Ga. – Nighte Pickering scored a brilliant volley in extra time to send Memphis 901 FC to a historic 2-1 victory against Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer in the Third Round of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
The result, which also saw Phillip Goodrum find the net in second-half stoppage time from the penalty spot to send the game to extra time, was Memphis first victory against an MLS opponent in official competition in club history.
“I’m delighted for the players because they really dug in,” said Memphis Head Coach Stephen Glass. “We lost a goal early there. It would be very easy to fold against a good team. We showed that we’re more than capable of going toe-to-toe with them. They deserved to win. Phillip showed unbelievable poise to take it and smash it in and Nighte’s finish in extra time was outstanding. I think the players deserved it.”
Memphis had to overcome a 1-0 deficit as Atlanta scored after just three minutes when Tyler Wolff caught the visitors napping to score from close range. The setback didn’t appear to deter the visitors, however, as Bruno Lapa proved influential throughout the 90 minutes. The Brazilian forced a big double-save by Atlanta goalkeeper Clement Diop just after the half-hour mark and then again six minutes before halftime on a low cross from the left by Luiz Fernando.
901 FC continued to push forward in the second half, ending the game with a 30-10 advantage in overall shots and a 10-2 advantage in shots on target, and in second-half stoppage time the side found its reward. Goodrum was brought down in the penalty area by Atlanta defender Juan Jose Purata, and the former Atlanta United FC player put home the spot kick to the bottom-right corner with almost the final kick of regulation.
Brought on as a substitute late in the opening 90 minutes, Pickering put Memphis ahead in the 100th minute as an interception in Atlanta’s half allowed the visitors to quickly move forward. A cross by Fernando from the right found the United States Men’s U-19 international inside the penalty area for a perfectly struck volley that left Diop little chance to save.
“I think anytime you achieve firsts as a club, you’re happy,” said Glass. “The boys that have been here a number of years, they want to grow as a club. Sometimes these boys outgrow you, but at the minute, we have an unbelievable group of players that are pushing and trying to do the best they can, trying to do something special again.”
Memphis continued to push forward in search of a third goal in the second period of extra time, but in the end the visitors wouldn’t need an insurance goal as they held firm defensively. 901 FC will now await the draw for the Round of 32, which will occur on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET and air on the B/R Football YouTube Channel.