Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernandez #2 passes during the first half of the Open Cup match against Memphis 901 FC at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, GA on Wednesday April 26, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Memphis 901 FC was relentless in attack as they held Atlanta United to task 2-1 in U.S. Open Cup play. Goals from Nighte Pickering and former five-stripe Philip Goodrum ended Atlanta’s cup dreams. Only one of Atlanta’s two shots on target kept them in the game.

Atlanta struck first blood in the third minute. Luiz Araújo held up play down the right flank and sent a long ball across the pitch to the far corner. Tyler Wolff received the long ball, steadied himself, and shot low past Bill Hamid for the first goal of the evening.

Memphis had an unprecedented 30 shots against Atlanta tonight, with 10 of them landing on target. Former Atlanta United players Laurent Kissiedou, Luiz Fernando, and Philip Goodrum were too much against their former club. Fernando was a threat the entire match and Kissiedou put in a quality shift.

In the dying embers of the match when it looked like Atlanta would skirt by with a win, Memphis was awarded a free kick. Goodrum converted the try and the match went to extra time. In 90+6′, Luiz Fernando lobbed a pass to Nighte Pickering who sent a well-timed volley past Clement Diop.

Machop Chol nearly equalized in the 103′ minute when he was played in on goal, but his attempt was saved by Hamid. On the ensuing corner, Luis Abram had a header creep just over the bar. Atlanta ultimately came up short in pursuit of an equalizer.

After the match, I caught up with Memphis 901 FC star Luiz Fernando to get his thoughts on the game and his Man of the Match performance. “All the respect for Atlanta, we all know they’re a great team, but tonight, we did the job and I’m very happy that I could play well and help the team with an assist,” he stated. “We give our best every day in training to get better and with the quality that we have, I’m not surprised with the final result. I thank God for the help he gave us tonight and to keep fighting until the end.”

Between Clement Diop’s eight saves and the team’s 43 clearances, the Beale St. Boys gave the five-stripe defense all they could handle and Gonzalo Pineda’s men had no answer for that.

“It’s at times hard, you know, when you play against a team that looks in rhythm that plays consistently,” said Pineda after tonight’s loss. “They’re cohesive, they pretty much put their starting lineup that played for the very beginning. And we put a team that never played together. So that is the kind of risk that you take when you rotate in that manner against this type of opponent.”

Tyler Wolff scored his first career goal with Atlanta United while Clement Diop tied his career-high with eight saves in his first start with the club. Tonight’s win sees Memphis to the fourth round of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It also marks the club’s first win over an MLS side in their history.

Atlanta United (5-1-3, 18 points) returns to MLS Regular Season play Saturday, April 29 when it travels to Nashville SC (1:30 p.m., FOX, MLS Season Pass, 92.9 The Game, La Mejor). All Atlanta United matches are available with an MLS Season Pass subscription, located on the Apple TV app.

-Jon Jones

Photo: Courtesy of ATL UTD

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