Riccardo Silva couldn’t have dreamed it when he first formed The Miami FC.
9,000-plus fans. A hot but beautiful night. Major League Soccer competition on the field against his squad. A back-and-forth affair keeping everyone in their seats until the final seconds, when a Miami FC player streamed toward goal and finished a one-on-one opportunity to send the club into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.
His, and many other, dreams were realized Wednesday night when Miami FC dispatched yet another Major League Soccer side from the U.S. Open Cup, this time toppling Atlanta United 3-2 with one of the best finishes a soccer fan could ever hope to see.“This is the true testament of the U.S. Open Cup. Anything can happen, and I’m extremely proud of my guys,” Miami FC midfielder and captain Michael Lahoud said. “We never stopped, even when things weren’t our usual flowing type of game. We never quit.”
Michael Lahoud speaks to the media after Miami FC’s win over Atlanta United
Atlanta United struck first, with a headed goal off a set piece scored by Brandon Vasquez. However, it was quickly answered by Miami FC, with Stéfano Pinho scoring his fourth goal in two games against MLS competition. It was a goal assisted by Kwadwo Poku, who showed both strength and control in completing the run and setting up the pass that led to the goal. It would not be the last time we would hear Poku’s name.
Alessandro Nesta and Kwadwo Poku speak to the media after The Miami FC’s victory over Atlanta United
The set piece, which had hurt Miami FC in the first half, would help them greatly in the second, when defender Rhett Bernstein knocked in a goal off the cross from Vincenzo Rennella. Atlanta would then take control of the match for most of the rest of the 90 minutes, trying and trying to break down the Miami FC defense.
The defense wouldn’t relent, but an overpursuit by Poku on Andrew Carleton led to a penalty kick. Julian Gressel scored the PK, and the next 15 minutes would prove to be a tight affair, with both exhausted teams having an eye on extra time. Until, that moment.
The moment came in the 93rd minute. With all of the three minutes of extra time exhausted, most were ready for the whistle to blow. Atlanta midfielder Harrison Heath unwisely chose to pass back, which led to a Miami FC breakaway spearheaded by Poku. Poku had 50 yards to cover on his run, but in a one-on-one faceoff with Alec Kann, it would be Poku and his Miami FC who emerged victorious, with a neat, composed shot aimed perfectly at the left post. It set off a raucous celebration on the field and in the stands. Even Miami FC manager Alessandro Nesta, who is normally composed in all on-field aspects, pumped his fists and pushed at the portable dugout.
“This is good. This is football,” Nesta said after the match. “I hope we continue to have these kinds of people every game.”
Miami FC will now face off against FC Cincinnati, who defeated Chicago Fire in penalty kicks, at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami on July 12.
Omar Moubayed contributed to this report.