Atlanta United knew that they’d have their hands full with the NASL’s Miami FC this evening in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16. They couldn’t have imagined losing in such a heartbreaking fashion: a Kwadwo Poku goal at the very end of stoppage time lifted Miami to a 3-2 win and booked them a spot in the Cup quarterfinals.
Atlanta would be the first to break through in the 35th minute. After a Tyrone Mears cross was knocked out of bounds off of a Miami defender’s hand, it was Brandon Vazquez heading a Kevin Kratz free kick past Mario Daniel Vega for his third goal across all competitions. But Atlanta didn’t lead for long: in the 37th minute, some nice combination play between Poku and Stefano Pinho led to a great strike by Pinho to level it.
Set pieces have been an issue for Atlanta all season long, and it took a Rhett Bernstein header off a Miami free kick in the 52nd minute to put the home side on top for the first time. And they came a hair away from making it 3-1 in the 64th if not for a mishit by Pinho with plenty of space to shoot the ball. But in the 75th minute, after Andrew Carleton was taken down on the left edge of the area, Julian Gressel converted the resulting penalty to equalize it once more.
Atlanta came very close to conceding a very late goal that would have potentially won it for Miami. In the 88th minute, a Leandro Gonzalez Pirez foul set up a free kick from a dangerous spot right in front of the box, but was gobbled up by Alec Kann. They didn’t dodge the final bullet at the end of stoppage time, as a poor giveaway by Harrison Heath in the attacking third saw Poku latch onto a Enzo Rennella pass with Kann in front of him and a defender to his left. The man from Ghana converted at the death to see his side through to the quarterfinals.
It was another away loss for Atlanta United, who haven’t won outside of the city since a 3-1 league victory over Real Salt Lake on April 22. Across all competitions, they’ve dropped four in a row on the road and are now 0-5-1 in their last six. They look to break that dry spell as they travel to Columbus for a league match against Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday. Miami FC will host the USL’s FC Cincinnati in the Open Cup quarterfinals on July 12, with their next NASL match on Tuesday against North Carolina FC in Cary.